Egypt continues to adhere to a colonial-era water usage policy, as revealed by the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Weeks after the fourth filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), the second round of talks on its filling and operation between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan took place in Addis Ababa from September 23-24, 2023.
Despite two days of intensive discussions, the parties failed to reach an agreement. The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed that the Egyptian side has taken a stance that challenges the 2015 Agreement on the Declaration of Principles (DoP).
According to the agreement, one of the key points was to commence reservoir filling while construction is ongoing, ensuring it doesn’t negatively impact Egypt and Sudan’s water shares.
The Ministry expressed concern over Egypt’s persistent adherence to a colonial-era treaty, monopolistic utilization, and self-claimed “water quota,” all of which have impeded significant progress in the negotiations. Notably, around 85 percent of the Nile River originates from the Ethiopian Highlands.
Egypt has been advocating for an exclusive share of Nile water, citing a colonial-era water sharing arrangement to which Ethiopia was not a party.
The outcome of this round of meetings is the identification of potential areas of agreement, signifying progress in the discussions.
This negotiation round focused on the “first filling and annual operation” of the dam. The Ministry’s statement confirms that Ethiopia’s objective in the current trilateral negotiations is to establish guidelines and rules for the first filling and annual operation of GERD, safeguarding Ethiopia’s rights while addressing downstream countries’ legitimate concerns.
A point of confusion arises: discussing the first filling when the fourth filling is already completed. No clarification is given at this writing. Currently, the dam’s reservoir holds approximately 42 billion cubic meters of water, significantly less than its initial design capacity of 74 billion cubic meters.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia declared in early September of this year, upon the completion of the fourth filling, that this would be the final filling. However, his office did not provide an explanation for this statement, given that the dam currently retained only 42 billion cubic meters of water.
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