The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) issue has again become a global concern discussed at the UN General Assembly, as Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia launched a new round of negotiations.
The issue was highlighted in speeches by the Foreign Ministers of Egypt and Ethiopia amid doubts about progress in the current round, aiming to reach an agreement by the end of November.
Egypt's Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, focused on the GERD crisis, addressing Egypt's severe water scarcity and 98 percent dependency on the Nile River.
Shoukry highlighted Egypt's annual water deficit, which is more than 50 percent of its water needs, forcing the country to reuse its limited available water multiple times.
The top diplomat reiterated Egypt's rejection of Ethiopia's unilateral practices on filling the GERD and its attempts to use the dam to impose a fait accompli "when it comes to the lives of over 100 million Egyptians."
The country needs to reuse water and import "virtual water," estimated at $15 billion annually, in the form of food.
He recalled that Ethiopia has unilaterally, and without previous impact studies, built a Grand Renaissance Dam, noting that Cairo is trying to reach a binding agreement on the rules of its operation while also considering the interests of the neighboring countries.
For his part, Ethiopia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Demeke Mekonnen Hassen emphasized the importance of regional cooperation, welcoming the resumption of trilateral talks with Egypt and Sudan regarding the dam.
He affirmed Ethiopia's commitment to collaborate with its neighbors in trade, investment, and regional integration.
Negotiations between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia regarding the dam have been ongoing since 2011, but extensive negotiation rounds have yet to produce an agreement.
The talks halted in 2021 but resumed upon mutual agreement between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last July. They aim to agree on the dam's filling and operation within four months.
Despite these efforts, the issue remains contentious. Ethiopia announced this month the completion of the dam's fourth and final filling stage, a move criticized by Egypt.
Experts such as the former Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Mohamed Nasereddine Allam, believe the negotiations may not yield any new outcomes.
Allam told Asharq Al-Awsat that Egypt's focus on reintroducing the GERD issue at international forums reflects the challenges of the water situation in the country.
He highlighted that Egypt's share of Nile waters provides about 500 cubic meters per person annually, half of the minimum water poverty level defined by the World Bank.
The former official pointed out that the circumstances in Sudan and Egypt need to offer more leverage to resolve this regional crisis, noting that resorting to the Security Council will not provide a decisive solution.
Negotiations between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia have been suspended since January 2021.
Egypt resorted to the Security Council in July 2020, but the Council merely urged the three countries to resume negotiations at the request of the African Union (AU), aiming to finalize an acceptable and binding agreement for all.
Meanwhile, former Assistant Foreign Minister for African Affairs Ali al-Hafni confirmed that despite the Security Council not taking a decisive decision regarding the GERD dispute, the UN and the Security Council are the "international reference."
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Hafni said Addis Ababa has not responded to the efforts of many African Union chairpersons over multiple terms, pushing Cairo to rely on the international community, especially given the exacerbating climate crises and the escalating regional water risks.
He asserted the need to update the international community about the crisis's developments continuously.