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Egypt Confronting Ethiopia’s Swift Filling of Nile Dam with Fierce Negotiations

Egypt Confronting Ethiopia’s Swift Filling of Nile Dam with Fierce Negotiations

Monday, 8 February, 2021 - 08:00
Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction work on the Nile River in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia, Sept. 26, 2019. (Reuters)

Ethiopia is rapidly advancing in building the Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, in clear defiance of Egypt’s warnings that require a binding agreement on the rules of filling and operating the dam to avoid an expected shortfall in its water share.


The construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has reached 78.3 percent, a jump from 74 percent in June 2020, according to Ethiopia’s Ministry of Water, Energy and Irrigation.


In a press briefing on Sunday, Minister of Water, Irrigation, and Energy Sileshi Bekele said the performance attained during the past six months is the fastest since the commencement of construction in 2011.


Authorities started filling the reservoir on July 21, 2020. However, the completion of the first filling phase prior to reaching an agreement with Egypt and Sudan irked both countries.


The dam is expected to hold 13.5 billion cubic meters of water in the upcoming rainy season, said Bekele, adding that of the total 13 power generating turbines, two will also start production during the same period.


Cairo and Khartoum stress the need to reach a binding and comprehensive agreement that guarantees the rights and interests of the three countries, and includes a mechanism for settling disputes on filling and operation of the dam.


They fear the potential negative impact of GERD on the flow of their annual share of the Nile’s 55.5 billion cubic meters of water.


In television statements on Saturday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stressed that his country is “fighting in the negotiations to protect the Egyptian people’s rights.”


“Patience will bring the desired results,” he added.


The African Union (AU) has been sponsoring the so far faltered talks between Cairo, Addis Ababa and Khartoum since July 2020, despite the intervention of international actors such as the United States and the European Union with observers.


Egypt hopes the new AU leadership would push forward the stalled talks.


Sisi stressed his country’s keenness to resolve the issue through “serious negotiations to enhance regional security, stability and development.”


Saturday marked the official beginning of the year-long AU chairmanship of Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi, who is replacing Cyril Ramaphosa.


Last week, Tshisekedi visited Cairo, pledged to resume the GERD negotiations under the AU’s umbrella immediately, and expressed confidence that peaceful talks would lead to consensual “outcomes”.


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