Addis Ababa denies taking unilateral actions on GERD: open letter to UNSC

Mohammed El-Said
4 Min Read

In an open letter to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Tuesday, Ethiopia claimed that Egypt “erroneously” portrays the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) as a threat to international peace and security. The letter asserted that Ethiopia was not taking any unilateral actions on the giant hydroelectric dam.

The letter came as a response to the recent Egyptian political and diplomatic maneuvers at the UNSC and the Arab League.  

In the letter, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew described the Egyptian stance on GERD as designed to ensure that the “unequal, colonial-era arrangements” on the Nile remain unchanged and unaltered. 

Andargachew said that Addis Ababa expected to continue the negotiations to amicably resolve the remaining outstanding issues, adding that Ethiopia was not surprised at Egypt’s stance and resorting to the UNSC despite the ongoing negotiations. He claimed that Egypt had “no intention of contributing to the success of the trilateral process [talks].”

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry accused Addis Ababa of deliberately impeding the course of negotiations on the disputed Nile dam, stressing Egypt’s “good faith” in reaching an agreement during negotiations. 

The Ethiopian foreign minister also told the UNSC, “It became difficult to move the negotiation process as quickly as we would have liked because of Egypt’s insistence on ‘historic rights and current use’ [of Nile water].”

“The notion of ‘historic rights and current use’ is a reference to the 1959 colonial-era agreement between Egypt and Sudan which divided the Nile waters between them, completely ignoring Ethiopia,” he added.

Despite the Ethiopian side is pushing the colonialism debate, Egypt’s historic right in the Nile waters is based on the agreement signed in 1902 between Great Britain and the independent Ethiopia under Emperor Menilik II, which Ethiopia vowed to not to construct, or allow to be constructed, any work across the Blue Nile, Lake Tsana, or the Sobat which would arrest the flow of their waters into the Nile except in agreement with Egypt and Sudan.

Egypt also relies on the 1993 agreement “Framework for general cooperation between Egypt and Ethiopia” which stresses the necessity of addressing the use of Nile waters in details by experts from both countries on the basis of the international law.

“Each party shall refrain from engaging in any activity related to the Nile waters that may cause appreciable harm to the interest of the other side,” according to article 5 in the 1993 agreement.    

Ethiopia ignores the 1902 and the 1993 agreements as well as the 2015 Declaration of Principles, and only talks about the 1929 agreement between Egypt and the Great Britain. Addis Ababa argues that these agreements are “invalid” and “unfair”, as they allow Egypt to get the Lion’s share of the Nile water.

Andargachew pointed out, “Ethiopia is committed to keep on negotiations on the principles of fair and reasonable use of the Nile water with no harm posed on lower riparian countries.”

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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.