Egyptian diplomacy and troubled waters on the Nile

Until recently, relations between Egypt and Ethiopia were governed by an agreement signed under the auspices of Britain in 1902, in which the ruler of Ethiopia officially promised that his country would not allow any projects on the Blue Nile, Lake Tana or Sobat River that may harm Egyptian interests.
But secretly, in 2011, after the institutional collapse of the Egyptian state and Mubarak regime, Ethiopia exploited the situation and began constructing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, confident that Egypt was not in a position to do anything about it. In 2013, the Ethiopian parliament officially voted in favor of revoking all old agreements with neighboring countries and concluding new ones. Muhammad Mursi came to power and then was overthrown and, when Abdel Fattah El-Sisi became president, he took care of the case and concluded a tripartite agreement with Ethiopia and Sudan in 2015. However, Egypt’s partners did not pay much attention to the vague promise of “taking into account the interests of Egypt” because the expression did not reflect any specific features or limits of the interests.
The current de facto situation is that Ethiopia is building the dam at the sources of the Nile, which would deprive Egypt of the river’s usual flow and endanger the country, whose population relies heavily on the Nile water. However, Egypt is sparing no effort to reach a solution that would save the region from a real crisis.
Negotiations over the dam stalled in November last year, after the ministers of irrigation of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia failed to reach agreement regarding the adoption of a report prepared by experts on dam studies. Both Sudan and Ethiopia rejected the report, while Egypt accepted it. Egypt was worried that building the dam would destroy its agricultural lands and deprive 100 million Egyptians of drinking water. On the other hand, Ethiopia says the dam is important for the development of the country, and stresses it has benefits for all downstream countries, including Egypt and Sudan. The position of Sudan seems closer to Ethiopia than to Egypt, and Khartoum, unlike Cairo, declared many times that the dam would benefit downstream countries.

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