A new round of negotiations at the ministerial level between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan kicked off in Cairo on Monday over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
The meeting came amid “low expectations” on reaching positive results, in light of the failed previous rounds of negotiations between the three parties.
According to a statement from the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, the Cairo meeting follows up on recent talks held in Cairo and Addis Ababa over the past two months.
It is based on talks between the three countries to accelerate the process of reaching an agreement on the rules for filling and operating the GERD, following a meeting between leaders of Egypt and Ethiopia on July 13, it said.
Observers told Asharq al-Awsat that the GERD issue has become more complex after a failed round of talks in Cairo and Addis Ababa in August and September, and more so after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced on September 10 that his country had successfully completed the fourth operation of filling the GERD reservoir.
At the time, Ethiopia’s move was criticized by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, which accused Addis Ababa of ignoring the interests and rights of Egypt and Sudan, and their water security guaranteed by the rules of international law.
Abass Sharaky, professor of geology and water resources at Cairo University, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the current round of negotiations would not discuss issues that previously happened, particularly that Ethiopia already completed the four stages of filling the Renaissance Dam.”
He said the negotiations are about future measures. The ministerial meeting aims to set specific rules for the annual filling of the dam and its operation, especially in drought periods where rainfall is low, Shakary noted.
“The ongoing negotiations are not expected to offer anything new or come up with an agreement, particularly in the absence of international or regional parties that can guarantee a binding agreement amid Ethiopia’s ongoing policy of fait accompli.”
The failure of the three countries to reach a binding agreement led Egypt last month to continue its international escalation on the issue of GERD.
The North African nation affirmed in its fourth letter regarding the GERD to the UN Security Council that “Ethiopia’s unilateral actions regarding the filling and operation of the dam constitute an existential threat to Egypt and a threat to its stability.”
The address was sent by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to the UNSC on the occasion of Ethiopia announcing the completion of the fourth filling of the GERD.
Egypt insists on the need to reach a binding and comprehensive agreement that guarantees the rights and interests of the three countries.
In August, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi affirmed his country’s commitment to reaching a legally-binding agreement with regard to GERD in a meeting with US Congress members.
Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister Mohamed Al-Orabi told Asharq Al-Awsat that Egypt is dealing with the GERD file through diplomatic channels and respect of international law.
“Therefore, Cairo will continue to negotiate with the other parties despite not reaching results on the GERD issue,” Al-Orabi said, noting that even international and regional mediation is no longer possible at the present time due to Egypt’s and the world’s involvement in the Gaza war.
Also, the director of the African program at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, Dr .Amani El Taweel, told Asharq Al-Awsat that in light of the past rounds of negotiations, the expectations to reach a binding agreement between the three parties remains “limited,” particularly that Ethiopia has failed to show any positive signs regarding this file.
She said Addis Ababa might believe that Egypt is currently engaged in the Gaza war and therefore Ethiopia could exploit the situation to further impose its de facto policy when dealing with the GERD issue.
Source: Asharq Al-Awsat