Ethiopia’s Objections Could Postpone Signing of GERD Agreement
Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan are less than five days away from the expected signing of the agreement on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), however, doubts remain on the three countries' ability to overcome all issues, especially as Addis Ababa insists on determining its fixed share of the Nile water.
Spokesman of the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, Mohamed al-Sebai, told Asharq Al-Awsat that his country was committed to the recent joint statement which set the end of February as the deadline for negotiations.
The joint statement, issued after a meeting in Washington earlier this month, indicated that the three countries agreed to continue negotiations until the final agreement is formulated by the end of February.
Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan held the latest round of talks on the GERD in Washington under the auspices of the United States and the World Bank, in an attempt to salvage the eight-years negotiations.
The ongoing negotiations aim to agree on the rules for filling and operating the dam, in order to avoid water crises in Egypt and Sudan.
Former Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Nasr Eldin Allam, Ethiopia succeeded in obtaining Egypt's recognition of the dam and its capacity. It also aspires to obtain a water share of the main tributary of the Nile River in Egypt for future agricultural expansions and building more dams.
Allam indicates that Ethiopia wants water, despite the hundreds of billions of cubic meters of annual rainfall and the spread of forests and pastures of huge animal wealth for export, while the food gap in Egypt costs about $10 billion annually.
Ethiopia began constructing the 1.8-kilometer-long dam in 2011 which is expected to begin generating power by the end of this year and eventually double Ethiopia's electricity.
Cairo fears the potential negative impact of GERD on the flow of its annual share of the Nile's 55.5 billion cubic meters of water, while Addis Ababa says the dam is not aimed at harming Egypt's interests.
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew said that his country had made progress in talks on GERD, but there are issues that still needed negotiations.
During his meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last Tuesday in Addis Ababa, Andargachew indicated that Ethiopia hopes to reach an agreement, adding there were “outstanding issues that need negotiation.”
Pompeo told reporters that the two countries were working on “formulating the terms of a final agreement on the dam.”
“A great deal of work remains, but I’m optimistic that over the coming months we can resolve this,” he said.
Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas expects all contentious issues to be resolved by the end of this month, and the signing of the agreement to be done by March.