Dr. Abdellatif El-Menawy
January 14, 2020
There are just hours left until the results of the latest crucial round of negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project, which are taking place between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan in Washington, are announced. The round kicked off on Monday, at the invitation of the US, to discuss what was reached in the four previous rounds of negotiations, which lasted for more than a month and had the participation of representatives of the World Bank and the US, as well as the foreign and water resources ministers of the three countries concerned.
The earlier rounds of talks, despite many statements of thanks and appreciation for hospitality, failed to reach a solution. The Egyptian irrigation ministry issued a statement after the end of the last round, in which it said the three countries could not reach an agreement due to the lack of clear measures from the Ethiopian side to preserve the capacity of Egypt’s Aswan High Dam while the GERD reservoir is filled, especially in periods of drought. It also said that the negotiations showed Ethiopia is not really seeking to reach an agreement and has always threatened to unilaterally fill the reservoir — a violation of international law and something Egypt will not allow to happen in order to preserve its share of the Nile’s waters, as stipulated in previous agreements.
Meanwhile, Ethiopian Water Minister Seleshi Bekele said there wasn’t an agreement because Egypt had suggested extending the period of filling the GERD’s reservoir to 21 years, when it prefers six. In a press conference after the last round, Bekele said that the Egyptian delegation attended the talks without the intention of reaching an agreement and that Ethiopia would start filling the dam in July. Bekele’s statement provoked the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, which issued a strong statement accusing the Ethiopian side of falsifying facts.
The Washington meetings might bring good news or create a new disagreement. But the scenario that is most likely to happen is to commit to article 10 of the Declaration of Principles signed in 2015 between the three countries, which gives the concerned parties the right to ask for mediation or refer the matter to their heads of states to discuss any disagreement.