Talks between Ethiopian and Egyptian delegations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) broke down within three hours after an Egyptian delegate raised an ‘unacceptable issue’ regarding the project. The talk was initially requested by Egyptian Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel-Muttalib. It was considered to be a good way to resume the negotiations between the three downstream countries that was terminated few weeks ago in Khartoum.
Minister Muttalib wanted to visit Ethiopia because Egypt wants an international panel of experts to oversee the GRD, something Ethiopia has rejected. Ethiopia and Sudan are willing to have a committee involved in the process but they want only representatives from the three countries on it.
That particular point has remained an issue of disagreement with Egypt on one side and Ethiopia and Sudan on the other, after three rounds of discussions in Khartoum.
Since Egypt’s request has already been discussed during past negotiation sessions with out an end agreement, when it was brought up again this time, the talks were terminated quickly. According to experts from the Ethiopian side, Egypt failed to bring new terms of negotiations to the table, but instead brought back old suggestions that had already been rejected by Sudan and Ethiopia during the tripartite negotiations in Khartoum last December.
The Egyptians want work on the GRD to be held off until an international panel of experts studys the effects the dam will create on their country.
The discussion held earlier this week between the Egyptian delegate led by the minister and Alemayehu Tegenu, Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy only lasted for three hours, according to Alemayehu, who spoke to Ethiopian journalists on Tuesday February 11.
“We have told them that the project will not cease, even for a second. Then the discussion finalized and we invited them for lunch,” Alemayehu said.
He said that the Egyptians are and have been trying to create different international campaigns against the project but they have not succeeded. He remembered that the Egyptian government had lobbied Chinese financers to suspend the construction of Chemoga-Yeda hydroelectric project that has only less than one percent for the contribution of Abay River, but their effort to get involved in the 1.2 billion birr loan approval for transmission line work stretches from the project to the central part of the country.
He stated that the transmission line project has already commenced. Capital has also confirmed that the project is running successfully with its own project office that is separate from the GERD project office.
PM Hailemariam Desalgn this week said that the Ethiopian government’s stand on the Abay River is based on mutual benefit. He said that Ethiopia does not and will never have a plan to harm other countries that are beneficiaries of the water. But, he stated, Ethiopia has the right to use the water fairly. “I hope the negotiation between the three countries will continue until a win-win agreement is reached,” he added.
Egypt has been also trying to lobby and confront countries about the project, which include foreign companies. Egypt has also been seeking help from Sudan. In the past few weeks, Egyptian officials in the interim government were lobbing aggressively trying to persuade Sudan to support Egypt. Currently, Sudan and Ethiopia have agreed on most of the issues included in the tripartite discussions. Egypt has stated that the two old (1929 and 1959) agreements between its former colonial power, Britain and Sudan are the right agreements and should still stand. Ethiopia says that it is not fair as the country was never included in those old negotiations. But now Egypt seems to consider projects in the river basin countries, while it follows every activity without comfort.
The project that is being directly financed from the Ethiopian government’s treasury has included companies from Italy, France, US, and other countries.
The other recent hot issue regarding the dam project is the confrontation between Egypt and Turkey, following the Egyptian irrigation minister’s controversial statement regarding Ankara’s support for the dam.
Earlier this week an Egyptian media reported that Israel and Turkey were both playing an active role in the Ethiopian dam project.
The Egyptian Irrigation Minister said that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had visited Addis Ababa and offered Turkish expertise on the multi-billion dollar hydroelectric dam project that is being constructed on the Abay (Blue Nile), the river that contributes over 85 percent of the Nile water.
“Any side that doesn’t like Egypt could be on the scene,” Mohamed Abdel-Muttalib said in televised statements on Tuesday.
“The Turkish foreign minister visited Addis Ababa and offered them [Ethiopian officials] Turkish expertise,” he added.
“What I want to say is that when Turkey built the Ataturk Dam, it made the Syrians and the Iraqis thirsty and ignored international agreements,” he added in his surprising statement.
Ambassador Dina Mufti, spokesman of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Capital that the Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, who visited Addis Ababa during the recent AU Summit, has meet Ethiopian officials. “The two sides have talked about various issues regarding the relationship of the two countries. And one of the things that arose during the discussion was Turkish experience that they shared about the construction of the dam in Ethiopia,” the spokesman explained.
“The Egyptian media has reported different things about the issue but, Ankara will never contribute any financial support for the project,” he explained.
“They did however, have offered to share Turkey’s massive experience regarding the construction of the Ataturk Dam,” he clarified.
He claimed that Egypt has said Israel is involved in the construction of the GERD but the claims are baseless.
Turkey has also responded to Egypt’s accusations against the country by saying that it is absolutely baseless.
“We reject these accusations and increasing allegations about our country in the Egyptian media, which can only be considered as imaginary,” said the statement.