CAIRO – 30 April 2021: The United States new administration could save the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia if they decided to take a real action to mediate again at this stage, Egypt’s Ambassador to the United States Motaz Zahran said on Thursday.
Zahran added that Biden administration is currently mulling over the best policy for managing this situation, however “they must act now.”
In his article published by Foreign policy, April 29, Zahran said that the future of the Nile is at stake, including the lives of millions of Egyptians and Sudanese.
“The United States has the leverage needed to successfully encourage Ethiopia to engage in good faith in the GERD negotiations and to refrain from unilateral actions and the pursuit of narrow self-interests, which have been detrimental to its neighbors’ legitimate interests.” Zahran stated.
He noted that soliciting expertise from international partners, including the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States, in support of the African Union-led mediation process would be invaluable in bringing the negotiations to fruition as soon as possible.
Zahran described Biden’s administration as a ‘new era’, saying that “a new era of stability and shared economic prosperity is on the horizon in Africa and the Middle East, due in large part to the steady leadership of the United States.’
He said that brokering the normalization agreements between Israel and a number of Arab states was an example of the welcome changes sweeping through the region.
“Through principled diplomacy, the Biden administration can reset the faltering negotiations, bring about an equitable solution for all parties, and, in doing so, ultimately safeguard its strategic interests with three important regional allies.” Zahran said.
The Egyption ambassador shed light on 2019 negotiations which were brokered by the united states saying that the situation as it stands today ‘was entirely avoidable’. As after finally accepting the participation and input of Washington and the World Bank in the process of negotiations and reaching an equitable agreement, Ethiopia abruptly backed out and claimed that the proposed agreement deprived Ethiopia from its right to generate electricity efficiently from the GERD or undergo future projects, and that it tried to impose water shares to which Ethiopia does not subscribe.
Zahran also referred in his article that Ethiopia’s actions indicates that it rejects any legally binding agreement on the rules of filling and operation of its new dam. He noted to all failed negotiations led by the African Union during the past year.
The Egyption official explained in his article titled "only Washington Can Save the Renaissance Dam Negotiations Now", that the unilateral filling and operation of unilateral could inflict incalculable socioeconomic and environmental harm downstream in Egypt and Sudan.
“Last year, flouting a 2015 treaty, Ethiopia started an initial filling of the dam. Now, balking at calls for an equitable resolution and consistent with its established policy of unilaterally exploiting of international rivers, Ethiopia is vowing to press ahead with a second substantial phase of reservoir filling this summer.” Zahran noted
He said that choking off an essential supply of water would exponentially increase the dangers posed by climate change in the region.
“As one of the most arid countries in the world, with less than one-sixteenth the amount of renewable water resources as Ethiopia, Egypt is already facing severe water shortages, largely because of rising temperatures and rising sea levels.” The Egyption ambassador explained.
Zahran mentioned a study in his article conducted by the reputable Dutch firm Deltares.
According to Zahran this study found that unilateral filling of the GERD could lead to a water shortage in Egypt of more than 123 billion cubic meters, and that in the agricultural sector alone, every 1 billion cubic meter shortage of water caused by unilateral filling or operation of the GERD, would result in forcing 290,000 people out of work, destroying more than 321,230 acres of cultivated land, an increase of $150 million in food imports, and a loss of $430 million of agricultural production.
“The threat the GERD poses is not hypothetical but real.”
He further explained that, another dam built by Ethiopia is causing enormous harm in Kenya.
“The fallout is so severe that UNESCO warned of the extinction of Lake Turkana in Kenya. There has also been reporting and research on other Ethiopian unilateral actions, including in the Juba and Shabelle basin, without prior consultation with Somalia, and their significant negative impact on water access and security in Somalia.” Zahran stated.
He finally noted in his article that the social and economic instability triggered by such unilateral policies by Ethiopia could generate greater unrest in the region.
“Ethiopia is stoking the flames by villainizing Sudan and Egypt by pushing the misleading populist narrative that attempts to characterize any and all concerns about the GERD as being rooted in colonialism, claiming that its downstream neighbors are against Ethiopia’s development and are trying to impose upon Ethiopia ‘colonial treaties’.” Zahran wrote.
On April 24, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan urged Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to “come together and resolve their disputes around the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam and their shared water resources,” a statement by the White House read.
Sullivan in the Friday statement announced the appointment of Ambassador Jeff Feltman as the US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa.
On the Tigray conflict, Sullivan urged “immediate withdrawal of Eritrean forces from the region, the cessation of hostilities by all parties, and unimpeded humanitarian access.”
Sullivan said Feltman’s work will build on the US ongoing efforts to address this urgent crisis in Ethiopia.
“The United States is ready to work with our allies and partners to promote shared peace and prosperity across the Horn of Africa,” Sullivan said.
Rounds of negotiations among Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia on the Ethiopian dam (GERD) have reached a deadlock several times with Egypt blaming the failure on Ethiopia’s intransigence.
Egypt and Sudan insist that a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam should be reached before Ethiopia implements the second phase of dam filling.
Ethiopia, however, says it will complete the dam filling in July with or without an agreement.
Egypt on April 13 sent a letter to the United Nations Security Council, calling on the international community to engage in advancing the stalled GERD talks and persuade Ethiopia to refrain from unilateral acts.
Also, Sudanese Minister of Irrigation Yasser Abbas warned that his country will sue the Italian executing company, Salini Impregilo (rebranded as Webuild Group) and the Ethiopian government in case the second filling was unilaterally implemented without a deal.
The lawsuits will be based on the need to compensate Sudan for the damages that will be caused by the filling process, according to Abbas.