Third round of Nile dam negotiations stall as Egypt and Ethiopia issue contradictory statements

Third round of Nile dam negotiations stall as Egypt and Ethiopia issue contradictory statements
Ethiopia and Egypt have issued contradictory statements regarding Egypt’s alleged dropping of a demand for 40 billion cubic metres of water from the Nile a year.
3 min read
25 December, 2019
Egyptians fear that Ethiopia's dam will deprive them of life-giving water

Negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over the controversial dam Ethiopia has nearly completed on the Nile have stalled amid conflicting statements from Egypt and Ethiopia.

The three countries have finished the third of four rounds of negotiations to settle the dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which Ethiopia has been building on the Nile since 2011, without a clear agreement. It now seems increasingly unlikely that the negotiations, which are due to be completed on January 13, will end in resolution of the dispute.

A key Egyptian demand has been a guarantee from Ethiopia that Egypt will receive at least 40 billion cubic metres per year of water from the Nile. On Tuesday, Ethiopian Irrigation Minister Seleshi Bekele said that Egypt had now abandoned this demand, only to be contradicted by an Egyptian statement which said that Egypt was still attached to the demand.

Read more: Ethiopia’s Great Renaissance Dam – A Catastrophe for Egypt?

Egypt currently receives about 55.5 million cubic metres per year of water from the Nile. The Nile is the country’s main source of water and Egyptians fear that the GERD will have a catastrophic effect on their country, depriving them of the water they need for drinking and agriculture and the electricity generated by Egypt’s Aswan High Dam, which was built in the 1960s.

Speaking after the negotiations, which were held in Khartoum, Bekele told Ethiopian media that Egypt was no longer demanding 40 million cubic metres annually and that outstanding issues would be resolved in the fourth round of negotiations, which will start on 8 January.

In response to the Ethiopian minister, the Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources
issued a statement saying it stood by its demand for 40 billion cubic metres a year.

Ethiopia and Egypt are also in dispute about the speed which the Ethiopian dam will be filled, because that could affect the functioning of the Aswan High Dam. Egypt wants the dam to be filled over a minimum of seven years while Ethiopia wants to fill it over four years. Bekele said that agreement had not been reached yet over this issue.

Ethiopia plans to complete construction of the dam by 2023. It says that the dam is vital to its future development and its plans to transition from a low to a middle income country.

The Egyptian ministry’s statement said that Egypt wants an agreement that would guarantee Ethiopia’s right to development without putting Egypt “in danger”. It said that Egypt had presented a plan which would coordinate the operation of the Aswan High Dam and the GERD.

If Egypt and Ethiopia do not reach agreement by the end of January, Egypt can refer the dispute to international parties for mediation.

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