2015 Agreement between Ethiopia and Egypt
On June 9, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan resumed talks on the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which had been stalled since February. In the new round of negotiations, which took place practically due to COVID-19, the water and irrigation ministers of the three countries agreed on guidelines for the first stage of filling and operating the GERD, as well as safety rules. However, the dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the controversial dam is far from resolved. If the last round had yielded better results, the impact of GERD on bilateral relations between Cairo and Addis Ababa would still be significant for the foreseeable future. She went on to cite Sudan`s “colossal” efforts to persuade Egypt and Ethiopia to sign the Declaration of Principles in 2015 and accept an initiative by the Prime Minister of Khartoum in June 2020 to promote dialogue on outstanding issues. The Sudan has also responded to the efforts of South Africa and the African Union, which have participated in all rounds of negotiations, to find an internal solution to the dispute. In the last round, Khartoum proposed to transform the negotiating mechanism into a mediation platform involving the United Nations, the European Union and South Africa, all of which had been observers in previous rounds. “Ethiopia has rejected all these proposals,” she said, adding that the Council should call on the three states to resume African Union-led talks, involving international mediators, to ensure that Ethiopia refrains from taking unilateral measures. She said “unequivocally” that this is a “just cause” that will ensure the dam is filled and operated in accordance with a legally binding agreement. A silence from the Council sends the wrong signal and signals its tacit agreement that the measures taken by Ethiopia are acceptable, she stressed. Sudan may be a third party in a dispute largely between Egypt and Ethiopia, but it would find it difficult to escape the consequences of a conflict between its neighbours. On the contrary, ordinary Sudanese would probably bear the brunt of such a conflict. On the one hand, Sudan would find itself in the middle of any military confrontation because of its geographical location.
In fact, Egypt and Ethiopia have no common border; as such, they would most likely turn Sudan into a border region and battlefield. Sudanese airspace and even its territory would be regularly violated, and an Egyptian airstrike on GERD tanks could lead to flooding of Sudanese territory. Preventing this is a top-notch Sudanese national security interest. The representative of Estonia said that the issue of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam could only be resolved amicably through direct talks and understanding between the three countries concerned. He urged them to stay the course and encouraged them to continue negotiating in good faith, making the necessary concessions and reaching a mutually beneficial tripartite agreement. Let us hope that an agreement can be reached in the coming weeks, as envisaged by the African Union Process. He added that this is a historic opportunity for the parties to set an example and show the world how a source of conflict can be transformed into cooperation. These agreements have always been contested and contested by the riparian States upstream. While Egypt and Sudan insist that their share of water be respected and honoured, upstream riparian states believe that these agreements are unfair and hamper their agricultural and development plans. They argue that they are not bound by these agreements because they were signed by the colonial powers and their governments were not part of these agreements. As the populations of the Nile Basin countries have grown rapidly in recent decades, their development needs have increased, leading to tensions and disagreements among them.
Attempts to negotiate the government and the division of the Nile`s water have not stopped over the past three decades. In 1999, the Nile Basin countries reached an agreement – the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) – to improve their cooperation. It brought together all countries that have access to the Nile to build trust among themselves and use the river effectively and beneficially for all parties concerned. Although Egypt was initially opposed to the idea of the GERD, arguing that the Anglo-Egyptian treaty gave it the right to veto such a project, it relented in 2012 and showed some degree of flexibility. This year, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan agreed to appoint an international group of experts to study the potential impact of GERD. In March 2015, the three countries signed the Declaration of Principles (DoP) in Khartoum. Under this comprehensive agreement, Ethiopia would implement the group`s recommendations, which included an ESIA. Many observers felt that this paved the way for a more detailed agreement between the three countries, setting rules and limits for the filling of the dam and its operation. However, Ethiopia later returned to its original position and refused to allow an ESIA.
SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) expressed concern about the growing tensions surrounding the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a problem for which there are no easy solutions. “Therefore, it is twice as important that all three sides are willing to make the necessary concessions that would allow them to reach a fair and equitable solution.” He urged all three to negotiate in good faith. He stressed the role of the African Union, but regretted that no agreement had yet been reached on important outstanding issues. The African Union is expected to remain the main forum for these talks, adding that Estonia also supports the participation of observers. .