The Egyptian Foreign Ministry released a statement on 10 September, calling Ethiopia’s “unilateral” filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) reservoir “illegal.”
The statement, which came a few hours after Adis Ababa announced the fourth and final filing of GERD, highlights that the move, which was conducted without reaching an agreement with downstream countries, violates both the 2015 Declaration of Principles as well as international law.
The move represents an escalation in a long-standing water dispute between Ethiopia and its downstream neighbors, Egypt and Sudan. It comes just two weeks after the three nations resumed negotiations following the collapse of African Union-sponsored talks in April 2021.
According to statements made by Egyptian Water Resources and Irrigation Minister Hani Sewilam in August, the negotiations, which resumed in Cairo on August 27 following a prolonged impasse, sought to forge an agreement that considers the interests and fears of all three countries.
However, recent developments could “impose a challenge” to the upcoming round of talks in Addis Ababa, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry stated.
Since Ethiopia initiated the project in 2011, the GERD has been a major source of regional contention. Egypt and Sudan are extremely concerned that the USD 4.2 billion project will substantially reduce their allotted Nile water share.
In recent years, the two downstream nations have repeatedly urged Addis Ababa to halt the filling process until a comprehensive agreement regarding its operation is reached.
The Sudanese government has not yet issued a response to Ethiopia’s announcement.
Ethiopia maintains that GERD will not diminish the downstream water flow.
Egypt, a country already suffering from water scarcity, has consistently affirmed its support for the construction of the GERD so long as it does not interfere with its historical claim to a fair share of Nile water.