Egypt’s supreme water committee to sit in permanent session amid GERD tensions

Mohammed El-Said
4 Min Read

The Supreme Committee for the Nile Water (SCNW) chaired by Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly decided on Sunday to remain in a permanent session to address the ongoing developments of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, and representatives of the Ministries of Defence, Foreign Affairs, and General Intelligence Service were present at the meeting.

The meeting discussed Egypt’s action plan for securing water interests and rights on the Nile River.

Egypt rejected Ethiopia’s “inappropriate” and “undiplomatic” statements over the Arab League’s resolution on the GERD. “Ethiopia’s statements constitute  an unacceptable affront to the Arab League and its member states,” said Egypt’s Foreign Ministry Sameh Shoukry.  

In a statement on Saturday night, the ministry pointed out that the resolution adopted by the Arab League “reflects dismay and discontent at Ethiopia’s track record throughout the endless rounds of negotiations on the GERD.” 

On Wednesday, the Council of the League of Arab States adopted a resolution supporting Egypt and Sudan in their negotiations with Ethiopia over the dam which expected to be the largest hydroelectric one in Africa. Later, Sudan withdrew from the resolution requesting to remove its name from the text and expressed its rejection. 

The resolution called on Ethiopia to respect the applicable rules of international law and not to undertake unilateral measures that could harm Egyptian riparian rights and interests. 

Responding to the resolution, Addis Ababa described it as “giving blind support to a member state [Egypt] without taking into consideration key facts at the centre of the GERD talks.”

In a statement, Ethiopia stressed that it “has the right to use its Nile water resources to meet the needs of present and future generations.” Since the Nile is a transboundary water resource, Ethiopia is committed to the principles of equitable and reasonable use, without causing significant harm and encouraging cooperation, according to the statement.  

The statement also affirmed Ethiopia’s commitment to the agreement on the Declaration of Principles (DoP) which provides the basis for the first filling and annual operation of the GERD. Ethiopia also praised the stance taken by Sudan for refusing to endorse the resolution.

Egypt accused Ethiopia of intending to exercise hydro-hegemony and to anoint itself as the unchallenged and sole beneficiary over the Nile. This is especially apparent in its insistence on filling the GERD unilaterally in July 2020 without reaching an agreement with downstream states, and while holding negotiations on the GERD hostage to domestic political considerations.

Ethiopia has skipped the final meeting for negotiations that was held in Washington at the end of February. Its absence was “because the country’s delegation hasn’t concluded its consultation with relevant stakeholders.” The US Secretary of the Treasury, and the President of the World Bank, participated as observers in the negotiations.

Egypt called for a balanced, win-win solution for the benefit of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan.

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Mohammed El-Said is the Science Editor for the Daily News Egypt with over 8 years of experience as a journalist. His work appeared in the Science Magazine, Nature Middle East, Scientific American Arabic Edition, SciDev and other regional and international media outlets. El-Said graduated with a bachelor's degree and MSc in Human Geography, and he is a PhD candidate in Human Geography at Cairo University. He also had a diploma in media translation from the American University in Cairo.