Cairo should end GERD talks as Ethiopia unlikely to sign binding deal: Egyptian ex-official

Mohammed El-Said
3 Min Read

Recent statements by Ethiopia prove its insistence to cut Egypt’s and Sudan’s shares of Blue Nile water, according to Egypt’s former Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Mohamed Nasr El-Din Allam.

“Addis Ababa is unlikely to sign an agreement with Cairo and Khartoum, or a legally binding deal on filling and operation of the Ethiopian mega dam,” Allam stressed. 

The former minister’s comments came following the suspension of the African Union (AU) sponsored talks following contention between the parties involved in talks on the Ethiopian dam issue. 

Late on Thursday, Spokesperson for Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dina Mufti, said that his country was unwilling to sing any legally binding water agreement. 

“Ethiopia will not sign any binding agreement compromising the needs of the future generation, and depriving itself from carrying out other development projects on the Abbay River [Blue Nile],” Mufti said. 

His comments come two days after both Egypt and Sudan decided to suspend talks to hold internal discussions on Addis Ababa’s actions.

On Tuesday, Ethiopia provided the two downstream countries with a draft proposal of guidelines and rules on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), without any mention of a legally binding agreement. 

Ethiopia’s proposal does not align with the outcomes of the meeting that was held virtually on Monday, and brought together Ministers of Water Resources and Irrigation of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, according to an Egyptian statement.

Ethiopia said, in a statement following the Tuesday meeting, that both Egypt and Sudan requested the meeting be adjourned. This would allow them to consider the Ethiopian version of guidelines and rules on the GERD filling that Addis Ababa submitted on 24 July.

Despite the Egyptian statement not setting a date for the upcoming meeting, Ethiopia said, “They are expected to reconvene on 10 August as proposed by Egypt’s delegation.”

On Wednesday, Egypt sent a letter to the AU Chair South Africa, rejecting Ethiopia’s unilateral filling of the Ethiopian dam, as well as Ethiopia’s proposal on the dam’s filling and operation.

Allam emphasised his doubt of the AU’s effectiveness or its honesty regarding the talks. He added that Egypt and Sudan should head to the UN Security Council to stop Ethiopian manoeuvres and to ask for the council’s help in reaching an agreement on the issue.

He further expects that Ethiopia will not commit to the AU resolutions, forcing Egypt and Sudan to withdraw from the entire talks. 

The current round of negotiations, which started on 27 July, is being observed by the AU Assembly Bureau, alongside representatives from AU member states, the US, and the European Union (EU). 

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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.