Frustrated by the lack of any sign of agreement over the filling of Ethiopia’s giant hydropower dam, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah Al Sisi warned again on Tuesday that there would be serious regional repercussions if his country’s water supplies were affected by the dam.
Egypt and Sudan, which both lie downstream from the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), had hoped to reach an agreement with Addis Ababa before the flood season, which begins in couple of months. Ethiopia intends to start the second round of filling the dam at the same time.
The construction of the $4.6 billion GERD on the Blue Nile, which is almost complete, began in 2011. Addis Ababa says the dam is vital to its economic development and would provide much-needed electricity to its more than 100 million people.
In the current circumstances, an international mediation, accepted by all concerned parties, is perhaps the only way to reach an amicable and practical agreement that preserves the rights and interests of the three countries
Water-scare Egypt meanwhile warns that if the dam is filled too rapidly, its water supply from the Nile will be hit. Sudan has said that the dam, which lies close to its border, would increase the risk of flooding and affect the safe operation of its own Nile dams.
“I’m not threatening anyone here, our dialogue is always reasonable and rational,” Al Sisi said on Tuesday, before adding that “no one can take a drop from Egypt’s water and if it happens there will be inconceivable instability in the region.”
The three countries have been locked for almost a decade in inconclusive talks over the filing and operation of GERD. Ethiopia began building the giant structure in 2011.
The previous US administration attempted to broker an agreement but failed at the last minute when Ethiopia didn’t attend the last round of talks in Washington on 26 February 2020.
An Addis Ababa official said at the time that US President Donald Trump was provided with “inaccurate and inadequate” information about the dam. He said the dam will benefit all three countries.
Al Sisi last month said Cairo and Khartoum reject “the policy of imposing a fait accompli and extending control over the Blue Nile through unilateral measures.”
Egypt and Sudan also proposed new negotiations with “quadripartite mediation that includes the African Union, the United Nations, the European Union and the US” to reach a deal before the summer.
It is hoped that the proposal is accepted by Addis Ababa as it represents an ideal solution to the current deadlock. In the current circumstances, an international mediation, accepted by all concerned parties, is perhaps the only way to reach an amicable and practical agreement that preserves the rights and interests of the three countries.
Tension is the last thing that region needs as they attempt to rebuild their economies following years of instability.