Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi discussed the developments of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) during a meeting on Saturday with senior government officials with the aim of reaching an agreement that takes into account all the sides’ interests and water rights.
Al-Sisi confirmed that Egypt is adhering to reaching an agreement that takes into account all concerns related to its water interests and rights in the Nile River, especially those related to filling and operating the dam, at the same time achieving the interests of other sides, Sudan and Ethiopia.
Last week, the Egyptian government denied the news reported by some media outlets that Cairo had withdrawn its timeline proposal for filling the GERD’s reservoir.
This came a few days after the irrigation ministers of the three countries met in Khartoum to resume negotiations on the GERD. This meeting was the third of four meetings to discuss the GERD which were agreed upon during a mediation meeting in Washington, on 6 November.
Egypt has been demanding an annual flow of 40 billion cubic metres of water from the Blue Nile during the filling of the dam’s reservoir.
Egypt and Ethiopia failed to reach an agreement so far on the volume of water to be released during drought times because Egypt needs 40bn cubic metres of Nile water to reach its territory, while Ethiopia proposed to release up to 35bn cubic metres.
The three sides are set to continue talks in Addis Ababa on 9-10 January, ahead of two decisive meetings in the same week in Washington, DC.
The foreign ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan are converging on 13 January to discuss the dispute in a second follow-up after the 9 December meeting.
This year has seen dramatic changes for the path of the dam’s negotiations.
In the beginning of 2019, Ethiopia has made pledges to not harm the water interests of Egypt amid verbal assurances by Ethiopian officials without their taking any action on the ground. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in October that his country is ready to mobilise millions if a war is a necessity.
The timeframe for filling and operating the dam is one of the main obstacles in the negotiations. The three countries have tabled different proposals on the duration of filling the GERD’s reservoir. Egypt’s proposal calls for a relatively extended filling period.
Cairo fears that the construction of GERD will lead to a decline in the flow of water in the Blue Nile, which Egypt depends on for obtaining 90 percent of its water.
GERD which is set to be Africa’s largest hydro-electric dam, has already tensioned relations between Egypt, and Ethiopia. Ethiopia is constructing the dam the Blue Nile in the Benishangul-Gumuz region some 40 km from the Sudanese-Ethiopian border.
The dam measures 1.8 km long and 145 metres high, and is scheduled for completion by the end of 2020 and full operations by 2022.
The project started in 2011 with a cost was estimated at $4bn and it was expected to provide electricity for Ethiopia’s population of more than 100 million.