Rift between Ethiopia-Sudan, and Egypt Grows on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Sudan expresses reservations, while Ethiopia “rejects in entirety” latest Arab League Council resolution on the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam issued on Thursday. 

  • By externalwire | March 6, 2020,8:34 pm

The resolution on the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD), issued after the conclusion of the council’s 153rd session in Cairo on March 4, supports the rights of downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan to maintain water security and rights to their shares of Nile River water. 

According to Ahram Online the resolution also stressed that “Egypt and Sudan’s water security is part and parcel of Arab National security.”

The mega-dam located on the Ethiopia-Sudan border promises to bring electricity and greater economic opportunities to Ethiopia, but could potentially threaten Egypt and Sudan’s water and food security.

Sudan apparently expressed its reservations when a draft version of the resolution was introduced to the parliament by Egypt on Wednesday, sources told MENA news agency. 

“Despite support from all Arab states for the draft resolution, the Sudanese side did not show any enthusiasm, but rather requested that Sudan’s name not be included in the resolution,” the sources said.

Sudan was the only country out of 22 Arab League members that declined to sign the final resolution, arguing it is not in the country’s national interest and due to concerns it could lead to an Arab-Ethiopian confrontation, MENA news reported. 

The Arab League resolution adds to tensions, primarily between Ethiopia and Egypt, that have grown significantly since, Egypt became the first country to sign the agreement on filling and operation of the GERD, on February 29. 

It prompted Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry to issue a statement saying it “rejects the ‘Resolution’ in its entirety.” It also praised Sudan for, once again, demonstrating its position as “a voice of reason and justice” on the issue. 

The statement issued on Thursday said, “This ‘Resolution’ gives blind support to a member state without taking into consideration key facts at the center of the GERD talks. Ethiopia, however, commends the stance taken by the Government of the Republic of the Sudan for refusing to endorse the ‘Resolution’ of the Arab League.”

Ethiopia also reiterated its position on the issue, stating it “has the right to use its Nile water resources to meet the needs of the present and future generations,” and is committed to “equitable and reasonable use, not causing significant harm and that of cooperation.”

Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan have been in negotiations over the filing and operation of the GERD for 10 years. There are fears the dam, located on the Ethiopia-Sudan border, will give Ethiopia control over the river which supplies 90 percent of Egypt’s water. Approximately 85 percent of the Nile’s water originates in Ethiopia. 

Ethiopia pulled out of tripartite negotiations over the filling and operation of the GERD organised by the US Treasury Department in Washington at the end of February, claiming it required more time to consider the draft agreement. 

Meanwhile, the Addis Standard reported on Thursday that Ethiopia had taken the extraordinary step of recalling eight ambassadors, including the ambassadors to Cairo (Egypt) and Khartoum (Sudan). The rationale behind the mass recall is unclear, but, the timing is curious given the deterioration in GERD talks. 

In light of recent developments, it remains to be seen if, and when GERD negotiations will be revived. The US managed to bring all parties back to the negotiating table last year, but in light of recent criticism from Ethiopia, who labelled its role in negotiations “undiplomatic,” it doesn’t appear to be in a good position to mediate talks. 

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