Egypt appears to be reverting to a more threatening strategy against Ethiopia concerning the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) after the breakdown of the fourth round of talks.
Earlier this week, Ahram, an Egyptian media outlet, cited the country’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources, Hani Sewilam, as stating that “Addis Ababa is building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) to exhert political dominance over the Nile River, in addition to the declared purpose of generating electricity.” The source indicated that the Minister made this remark during an interview with Al-Arabia.
Following the collapse of the fourth round of talks, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement emphasizing that Egypt’s assertion of colonial-era dominance over the Nile complicated reaching an agreement on the filling and operation of GERD. Egypt has laid claim to a “historical right” over the Nile river, based on the 1959 agreement colonial era agreement, to which Ethiopia is not a signatory. More than 85 percent of the Nile’s water originates from the Ethiopian highlands.
Hani Sewilam, appointed as Minister of Water and Irrigation in August 2022, was quoted as saying, “There are other hidden goals inferred from Ethiopia’s formulations during talks, its approach towards the dam, and the exaggerated size of the dam reservoir.”
Ethiopia has declared its intentions regarding the construction of what is said to be the largest dam in Africa. Over 60 percent of the Ethiopian population lacks access to electricity. Apart from generating electricity, Ethiopia aims to utilize the saddle dams and smaller lakes created upon project completion for fishing and tourism.
Ambassador Seleshi Bekele, leader of the Ethiopian negotiating team and former Minister for Water and Irrigation, held a press briefing with journalists in Addis Ababa after the fourth round of negotiations ended without an agreement. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia cited him as saying that “Ethiopia is committed to addressing outstanding issues and reaching an amicable solution to the use of the Nile water resources guided by the principle of equitable and reasonable use without causing significant harm to downstream countries”.
Ethiopia has completed four rounds of filling the dam reservoir, currently retaining 42 billion cubic meters of water. Upon completion, the dam is expected to retain over 74 billion cubic meters of water.
This year, the Ethiopian government announced that over 95 percent of GERD’s construction is completed and aims to finish it by the end of the Ethiopian year. Given Ethiopia’s economic challenges, notably its inability to pay an interest payment of $33 million to its creditors, it raises questions about whether the Ethiopian government will manage to complete the dam by year-end.
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