Ethiopia Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew has expressed his country’s enthusiasm to strengthen bilateral relations with Egypt and a commitment to resume negotiations on the contentious, and massive, Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the River Nile.
At a Cairo meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi last week, Gedu delivered a message from Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed communicating Ethiopia’s resolve to resume tripartite talks on GERD – which are expected to focus on implementation of the declaration of principles regarding water fills and operation of the dam.
Al-Sisi on this part reportedly returned greetings to Abiy Ahmed and expressed “hope for promoting various aspects of bilateral partnership between both sides”. Egypt has historically been particularly critical of the dam’s construction, arguing that it will reduce its legitimate share of River Nile water access, and thus threaten its water security.
The exchange of goodwill comes soon after, and perhaps in spite of, reports in Arab and Israeli media that Israeli firms, in May this year, installed an advanced “Spyder-MR” air defense system for GERD on behalf of Ethiopia, in the face of objections from the highest levels of Egypt’s government. There has been no official comment on these reports from the governments involved.
Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan have engaged in tripartite talks since 2014 to reach a final agreement on the rules of filling and operating the dam. In 2015, the leaders of the three countries signed an initial agreement on the Renaissance Dam to guarantee Egypt’s share of 55 billion cubic meters of the Nile water.
A new round of negotiations among the three countries had been planned for April this year, but the ouster of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and the ensuing upheaval in Sudan resulted in postponement.
It has been reported that Egypt plans to reschedule a meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Water and Intelligence officials from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia now that the political situation in Sudan is regarded as being somewhat stabilized.