Egypt Willing to Negotiate With Ethiopia


Nabil Fahmy, the Foreign Minister of Egypt, has reportedly stated that Egypt is willing to negotiate earnestly with Ethiopia regarding the proposed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) following a period of heightened diplomatic tensions between the two African countries. These diplomatic tensions were the result of Ethiopia’s plan to build the GERD . This is a dam which Tedros Adhanom, the Ethiopian Minister for Foreign Affairs, has characterized as representing a breakthrough in Ethiopia’s quest for sustainable economic prosperity. Egyptian officials have long expressed concern that the GERD, which would be the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa, would affect the amount of water available for Egyptian consumption.

The main difficulties causing this diplomatic tension stem from a colonial era treaty which regulates the division of the Nile between the three Nile basin states, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan. Unfortunately for Ethiopia, the treaty gives the main portion of the Nile to Egypt and the Sudan, leaving very little for Ethiopia itself. This situation, which is regarded by Ethiopia as intolerable, has led Ethiopia to refuse to recognize the treaty, although Egypt refuses to sign a Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) which was recently proposed to replace said colonial treaty.

Particularly at issue is the fact that Ethiopia disputes the idea that the Nile is Egypt’s only source of freshwater. Fekahmed Negash, the director for boundary and trans-boundary rivers at the Ethiopian Ministry of Water and Energy, has pointed to the Nubian Aquifer, which is capable of supplying Egypt with freshwater for thousands of years, as a possible alternate water supply for Egypt. Furthermore, Negash has pointed to the presence of desalination technology in Egypt, which has allowed the Egyptians to amass huge reserves of freshwater behind Aswan High Dam and Lake Nasser. In contrast to the Egyptian situation of relative abundance, Ethiopia allegedly relies largely on rains for many of its freshwater needs, making the GERD an important project if Ethiopia is to ameliorate the standards of living for its citizens.

Past negotiations between Egypt and Ethiopia regarding the GERD, which would generate up to 6000 megawatts of energy, were largely ineffectual, but officials from Egypt insist that they are willing to allow for proper negotiations between the two countries. These negotiations have taken a number of forms, such as Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn inviting dignitaries from Sudan and Egypt to the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa for a summit. However, foreign powers have also become involved in the mediation attempts, with officials such as Aaron Salzberg, the special coordinator for water resources at the US Department of State, travelling between Cairo and Addis Ababa in an attempt to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab has long expressed the opinion that Ethiopia has the right to develop economically, so long as this economic development does not harm the livelihood of the Egyptian people, and this stance has become the official Egyptian policy vis-a-vis the GERD. Previous tripartite talks between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan have failed to resolve the diplomatic tensions, yet Ethiopian officials hope that they will be able to demonstrate to their Egyptian counterparts that the GERD would not impact Egypt’s water supply, which has been the Ethiopian stance throughout the negotiations thus far. Egypt’s willingness to negotiate with Ethiopia regarding the GERD, as well as the attempts by foreign powers to serve as mediators, mean that upcoming negotiations have a greater chance of succeeding, thereby solving this dispute between the two African countries.

By Nicholas Grabe

Ahram Online
Daily News Egypt
World Bulletin
Ahram Online

9 Responses to "Egypt Willing to Negotiate With Ethiopia"

  1. aswedf   May 19, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    only negotiation otherwise impossible to win Israle

  2. Nebil   May 19, 2014 at 6:40 am

    Correction: The colonial era treaty DOES NOT include Ethiopia. It was exclusively signed between the two British colonies Egypt and Sudan without any mention of Ethiopia, which is the source for 86% of the Nile River reaching Egypt.

  3. Tsegaye Desta   May 19, 2014 at 5:10 am

    Is it realy Egypt willing frankly to discus with Ethiopia about GERD ?? because Egyptian design to over come the problem by cheating rather than negotiating with upper stream countrey
    It is a right time to Egypt for negotiation not only with Ethoipia but also with Nile base countrey.

  4. MOK   May 18, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    by sabotaging and blocking water project in ethiopia egypt put millions to death in starvation,flood…

  5. Jasmine Reta   May 18, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    ‘Egypt willing to negotiate’?…Last I check Egypt contributes zero% to the Nile water, shouldn’t it rather avoid worthless posturing and acknowledge that it is in no position to be ‘willing’ but rather to be begging for it? The country seems to be still in a grand illusion about its leverage on the Nile.

  6. meko   May 18, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Egypt’s claim of ownership of the Nile waters is laughable.

  7. meko   May 18, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    It is inevitable. Upper stream nations will utilize nile. Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan…..

  8. Levar   May 18, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Well said, Werner. Egypt is its own problem on this issue. They know the international media will listen to what they have to say more so than Ethiopians, so they take advantage of this by twisting reality and playing victim. And the mainstream media lazily follows. It’s the Egyptians – not the Ethiopians – who must prove that they have no ill intentions. Egyptians must prove they really mean what they say by openly renouncing the 1929 and 1959 agreements.

  9. werner   May 18, 2014 at 11:36 am

    There is absolutely nothing to discuss about the dam. The dam is being built on Ethiopian territory on an Ethiopian river called Abay.
    Egypt should come to it’s senses and stop talking about imaginative veto rights over Abay and the Nile. The only route to fair and equitable use of the Nile waters is by signing the 12 years old Nile Basin Initiative framework agreement. Intimidation and sabotage against other African nations is counter-productive.
    Furthermore, Egypt cannot lecture upstream nations about water, while the Aswan Dam loses 5 billion cubic meters of water just by evaporation. In addition to that, Egypt cannot maintain to cultivate water intensive crops like rice, wheat and cotton in a desert.

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