Egypt’s Sisi, African Union chief discuss Ethiopia’s dam

This handout picture taken on July 20, 2020 and released by Adwa Pictures on July 27, 2020 shows an aerial view of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile River in Guba, northwest Ethiopia. (YIRGA MENGISTU / ADWA PICTURES / AFP)

CAIRO – Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi held talks on Saturday with President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Felix Tshisekedi, also the current chairperson of the African Union, on the latest developments of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) issue.

During the meeting, Sisi noted "Egypt's appreciation of the Congolese president's relevant efforts and confidence in his ability to deal with the GERD issue," said the Egyptian presidency in a statement.

Egypt and its downstream neighbor Sudan raised concerns about Ethiopia's decision to unilaterally carry out a second filling of the dam later this year

Egypt and its downstream neighbor Sudan raised concerns about Ethiopia's decision to unilaterally carry out a second filling of the GERD later this year, as it did last year, without reaching a prior tripartite legally binding agreement on the rules of filling and operating the dam.

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Both downstream countries seek the formation of an international quartet of the African Union, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations to maximize chances of reaching the desired agreement, a proposal not welcomed by upstream Ethiopia.

"Egypt will not accept the undermining of its water security and thus it is necessary to reach the desired binding legal agreement that preserves Egypt's water rights and spares the region further tension and instability," the Egyptian president said during his talks with Tshisekedi.

For his part, the Congolese president affirmed his keenness to intensify coordination on this "sensitive issue" to help all parties achieve progress in the tripartite negotiations.

Tshisekedi praised the efforts by Egypt to reach a fair and balanced agreement that achieves the interests of the three states.

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Ethiopia started building the GERD in 2011. Egypt is concerned that it might affect its 55.5-billion-cubic-meter annual share of the Nile water, while Sudan raises similar concerns over the US$4 billion dam.

Over the past few years, tripartite talks on the rules of filling and operating the giant hydropower dam, with a total capacity of 74 billion cubic meters, have been fruitless, including those hosted earlier by Washington and the recent ones sponsored by the African Union.