Ethiopia has disregarded Egypt’s repetitive warnings of taking unilateral procedures related to the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) which Addis Ababa is constructing at the Nile River.
The project raised Cairo's concerns that its share of the waters will be affected.
Speaking on the occasion of the ninth anniversary of the Dam, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said the filling will kick off during the rainy season, despite coronavirus challenges.
“We have high regard for the dam because it is the symbol of our sovereignty, it is also a bond that binds Ethiopians together. The construction would be completed during the coming rainy season. And we will start filling the water,” he said, according to a statement published by Ethiopian News Agency (ENA).
Rainy seasons in Ethiopia usually start in June and end in September every year.
According to Egyptian observers who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, these statements are to test out Cairo’s capabilities in case Addis Ababa conducts this step.
Egypt and Ethiopia have been exchanging accusations for a while amid halted negotiations.
According to Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy in Ethiopia Seleshi Bekele, the dam is 72.4 percent completed. The work on the project is also underway and once completed, the GERD will be the largest hydropower project in Africa, he added.
Earlier, Egypt rejected Ethiopia’s intention to move forward with the filling and accounted for this as a flagrant breach of the law and international customs in addition to the Agreement on Declaration of Principles in 2015.
Dr. Amani al-Taweel from Egypt's Al-Ahram Research Center saw the Ethiopian statements as provocative to test out the Egyptian reaction. She told Asharq Al-Awsat that reiterating these statements is to figure out the Egyptian capabilities before moving forward.
The Egyptian expert sees that these statements aren’t final, affirming that the conclusive decision hinges on last moment developments because Ethiopia is aware that talks must be held with Egypt and Sudan.
Former Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Nasr Eddin Allam told Asharq Al-Awsat that as soon as the coronavirus crisis is over, international organizations must be addressed in case Ethiopia didn’t back off.
Allam added that the pandemic represents an opportunity for each state to reevaluate its situation and take a different approach to defend its rights.
The agreement signed in 2015 among leaders of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan stipulates that it is substantial to agree on the filling and operating before commencing any works to guarantee that no state is harmed.