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Sunday, 26 July 2020

Ethiopia’s PM seems to be giving assurances that early GERD filling is harmless

Ethiopia is trying to reassure Egypt, Sudan that early filling of GERD is harmless: The first phase of filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) will not hurt the Nile’s downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in a statement aired on Ethiopian state TV on Wednesday, as the countries prepare to return to the negotiating table. Addis Ababa last week announced that it had finished the first stage of filling the reservoir after the three countries agreed to restart talks in search of an elusive agreement on filling and operating the dam. “We have successfully completed the first dam filling without bothering and hurting anyone else. Now the dam is overflowing downstream,” Ahmed said. This “has shown to the rest of the world that our country could stand firm with its two legs from now onwards.”

Egypt maintains that downstream water flow will be interrupted: The early filling has already led to a shortage of water in Sudanese silos and means that Egypt will be receiving its share of the Nile annual flood as late as mid-August every year, Masrawy reports, quoting an Irrigation Ministry official with knowledge of the GERD negotiations. Egypt had previously been receiving its share at the end of July.

The dam is now on track to reach full energy generation capacity by 2023, but “now we have to finish the remaining construction and diplomatic issues,” the Ethiopian statement said. Electricity generation could start as early as January or February 2021, and the “the historic achievement of the first stage of filling … is a testament to the end of the unfair use of the Nile,” Ethiopian Deputy PM Demeke Mekonnen said.

Egypt not looking for open conflict –El Sisi: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi indirectly addressed the GERD impasse in his 23 July speech, saying that, while Egypt actively avoids conflict, it “is able, when needed, to take the necessary measures to protect its historical rights and gains” (watch, runtime: 7:08).

The White House is reportedly lining up sanctions on Ethiopia if the negotiations fail to yield a mutually satisfactory agreement, a Foreign Policy piece quoting six unnamed American officials and congressional aides suggests. This could mean withholding unspecified aid the US provides to the African nation. Washington-mediated talks that wrapped up earlier this year failed to convince Ethiopia to sign a final agreement, and while formal statements coming out of Trump administration officials assert the US was and continues to be “an impartial mediator,” Foreign Policy suggests that “there’s growing concern that the Trump administration is putting its thumb on the scales to favor Egypt at the expense of Ethiopia.”

Background: El Sisi, Ahmed, and Sudanese PM Abdalla Hamdok agreed at an African Union (AU) sponsored summit last week to continue to strive toward a legally binding agreement over the filling of the dam’s reservoir, rules to operate the dam, and future developments in the Blue Nile. The dam is expected to take between 5-7 years to fill although the exact timeline for this remains one of the key points of disagreement between the three countries. The AU was also out with a statement over the weekend recapping the summit, which was hosted by current AU head and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The story is still getting attention in the foreign press: Bloomberg | The National.

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