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Egypt welcomes Russia’s mediation in Ethiopia dam dispute

April 13, 2021 at 3:55 pm

A general view of the the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), near Guba in Ethiopia, on December 26, 2019 [EDUARDO SOTERAS/AFP via Getty Images]

Egypt is counting on Russia’s support in resolving the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) dispute, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said yesterday.

“We rely on Russia, through its relations with the three countries [in the dispute] and its capabilities and given its international prestigious impact and position, to push the various parties to refrain from unilateral acts,” Shoukry said in a meeting held in the Egyptian capital Cairo with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.

For a decade now, Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia have been trying to reach an agreement over the GERD, in an attempt to serve joint interests without undermining water quotas of downstream nations.

African Union-brokered negotiations between the three countries failed last week, with Cairo and Khartoum blaming what they described as the “Ethiopian intransigence”.

Shoukry pointed out that his meeting with Lavrov had also discussed “the development on the Palestinian issue,” referring to the resumption of activities of the so-called “Middle East Quartet of mediators”, which includes the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations.

READ: Sudanese official warns of ‘water war’

Ethiopia is building a $5 billion dam near the border with Sudan it says will provide the country with much-needed electricity and economic regeneration. Egypt believes it will restrict its access to Nile waters.

Ethiopia renews commitment to AU mediation in dam talks - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Ethiopia renews commitment to AU mediation in dam talks – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Egypt is almost entirely dependent on Nile water, receiving around 55.5 million cubic metres a year from the river, and believes that filling the dam will affect the water it needs for drinking, agriculture, and electricity.

Cairo wants Ethiopia to guarantee Egypt will receive 40 billion cubic metres or more of water from the Nile. Ethiopian Irrigation Minister Seleshi Bekele said Egypt has abandoned this demand, but Egypt insists it hasn’t and issued a statement to this effect.

There is also an unresolved issue over how fast the dam will be filled, with Egypt fearing if it is filled too quickly, it could affect the electricity generated by the Aswan High Dam.