Nation Has Full Right to Fill, Manage Operations of GERD: Senior Expert on Nile River

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ENA February 29/2020 Ethiopia has the full right to fill and manage operations of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) without causing harm against other riparian states, a senior expert on Nile River said. 

It is to be recalled that Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have been negotiating with the United States and the World Bank as observers in Washington DC to resolve the concerns of the riparian country Egypt over the construction of the dam.

Ethiopia excused itself from attending the recent trilateral negotiation which was scheduled to take place this week in Washington D.C. due to unfinished consultations with national stakeholders.

Oblivious of this, the U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin held separate bilateral meetings with ministers of foreign affairs and water resources of Egypt and Sudan in Washington on February 27-28, 2020.

And in a press release the US Department of the Treasury issued after the separate meetings, it said final testing and filling should not take place without an agreement.

“Final testing and filling should not take place without an agreement.We also note the concern of downstream populations in Sudan and Egypt due to unfinished work on the safe operation of the GERD, and the need to implement all necessary dam safety measures in accordance with international standards before filling begins,”  the statement added.

Fekahmed Negash, a senior expert on Nile River told Ethiopian News Agency that the US statement would not bring negative impact on Ethiopia’s stance over the construction of the dam, stressing decisions related to the filling and operations should only be made by Ethiopia not by any other external actors.

The filling of the dam will take place using Ethiopia’s water share of the Nile River and the country should not allow external interferences that hinder the realization of GERD, which it considers fundamental to the nation’s economic development, he underscored.

“This could have been negotiated in good faith among Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan to reach an agreement that could make all the three countries benefit from the dam,” he noted.

However, the senior expert stressed that there would be no power holding back Ethiopia from filling the dam as per the procedure of the construction process.

Describing Ethiopia’s unreserved diplomatic efforts to address concerns raised by downstream countries towards the construction of the dam, Fekahmed pointed out that the country should complete the dam in such a way as to not cause a significant harm on Egypt and Sudan.  

“No actions could be taken without the consent of Ethiopia. Hence, Ethiopians should not be confused by suggestions and rumors that Egypt and Sudan may attempt to sign the agreement as it would not be binding and won’t have an impact on the country,” Fekahmed elaborated.   

He said that as the statement issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury destroys the trust bestowed on the observers, the government should proceed by considering the national interest without harming others.  

Efforts should be exerted to create a situation whereby the negotiation is led by neutral parties  and also intensify diplomatic activities aimed at promoting the interest of Ethiopia without harming the downstream countries, the senior expert pointed out.

Yaekob Arsano, a scholar who took part in various tripartite negotiations on  the dam,  said on his part that attempts to put  pressure on Ethiopia are unacceptable.

Ethiopia will continue exercising its sovereign rights and national interest over the dam, he stressed.  

The country’s negotiators and senior government officials are now discussing about the current developments on the dam, it was learned.