Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to press for an external mediator in its ongoing dispute with Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) when he meets Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Russia this week. The World Bank has been suggested as a mediating entity.
"We're hoping this meeting might produce an agreement on the participation of a fourth party," an Egyptian foreign ministry official told journalists 20 October. "We're hopeful to reach a formula in the next few weeks."
Ethiopia had said last week that it will not accept any mediation regarding talks over the filling and operation of the dam, insisting on tripartite consultations among Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan. The Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) quoted the country’s Water, Irrigation and Energy minister, Seleshi Bekele as saying “Ethiopia will continue to reinforce and peruse the trilateral technical consultation, as it is the only option for resolution of differences among the three countries with respect to the dam.”
Earlier this month El-Sisi congratulated Abiy Ahmed for the Ethiopian leader’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize.
As recently as 5 October, Egypt said the negotiations on the GERD between Egyptian, Sudanese and Ethiopian ministers of irrigation in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum had reached "a dead end” while on the same day the Ethiopian government called Egypt's conditions for filling the Dam "unjustified" and disruptive to "the positive spirit of cooperation."
Egypt held Ethiopia responsible for the failure of the negotiations, saying it "rejected all proposals that would help Egypt avoid serious harms because of the construction of the dam."
Egypt's Foreign Minister (FM) Sameh Shoukry had recently expressed frustration with Ethiopia’s stance on filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
Shoukry’s comments, in an interview in New York 22 September, comes after the first round in a year of tripartite ministerial negotiations around the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) stalled. A 16 September statement by the Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation said that two-day negotiations among the irrigation ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan focused on procedural matters but did not address technical aspects, and made no breakthrough on impassses.
"The meetings did not touch upon substantive issues because of Ethiopia's refusal to discuss the proposal Egypt offered to the two countries," the ministry said, adding that Ethiopia's delegation refused to discuss a proposal on filling and operating the $5 Billion USD GERD.
United States President Donald Trump last week expressed support for the three countries' on-going negotiations to reach a collaborative agreement on GERD and invited the foreign ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to meet in Washington for mediated discussion. OOSKAnews and The Water Diplomat will report further on the 6 November negotiations.
Since the breakdown in talks Ethiopian Foreign Ministry has claimed that Egypt’s proposal puts Ethiopia’s sovereignty in question, saying in remarks to Ethiopian News Agency “any move that does not respect Ethiopia’s sovereignty and its right to use the Nile dam has no acceptance.”
Egypt insists that Ethiopia should fill the dam reservoir over a period of seven years and release 40 billion cubic meters of water every year. However, Ethiopia wants to fill the dam in 3 years and rejected Egypt’s proposal, claiming that it does not “respect current and future rights and development plans of Ethiopia over the Nile and complicates the filling of the dam”.