File Photo: This general view shows the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in Guba, Ethiopia. AFP
In a detailed response on Wednesday to an Ethiopian statement released earlier in the week on the GERD dispute, the Spokesperson of the Ministry of foreign Affairs Ahmed Abu-Zeid said that what Addis Ababa refers to as "colonial agreements" were agreements signed when Ethiopia was a sovereign state.
On Monday, Ethiopia called on Egypt to abandon what it described as the "unlawful claim to monopoly over the Nile River based on defunct colonial agreements."
Ethiopia has on many previous occasions accused Egypt and Sudan of basing their legitimate disagreements over the filling and operation of the GERD on what it described as "colonial agreements."
Ethiopia's new round of accusations came two days after the Arab League (AL) Summit voiced its serious concerns over the lack of progress on negotiation over the GERD due to Ethiopia’s intransigence, urging Addis Ababa it to refrain from the unilateral filling and operation of the dam.
The Ethiopian statement claimed that the position taken by the AL echoed “hostile Egyptian rhetoric” on the GERD and represents "an affront to the African Union (AU)" and "the cherished history shared between Africa and the Arab world."
The last round of AU-sponsored GERD talks collapsed in April 2021 and all attempts to revive the negotiations have since failed.
On Wednesday, the Egyptian foreign ministry spokesperson said the Ethiopian statement was "misleading and rife with inaccuracies."
“The statement of the Ethiopian ministry twisted facts in a desperate attempt to drive a wedge between Arab and African countries by portraying Arab support for Egypt's just and responsible position as an “Arab-African dispute”,” Abu Zeid added.
“Egypt's history of supporting national struggle movements and liberation from colonialism in Africa as well as its efforts and the resources it allocates to support economic and social development and peace-building programmes in the African continent, - all flies in the face of these baseless allegations that Egypt mobilizes Arab countries against African interests,” he added.
Abu Zeid said that Addis Ababa does not have the right to speak in the name of African nations simply because it the host of the headquarters of the AU.
“This cannot be used by Ethiopia to conceal its violations of the rules of international law and the principles of good neighbourliness … or to fulfil its moral duty not to harm downstream countries Egypt and Sudan," Abu Zeid noted.
The foreign ministry spokesperson expressed disappointment over what he described as the baseless claim made in the Ethiopian statement that the three countries have already reached an agreement on the water storage volume and filling duration of the GERD's reservoir.
Seeking AL support legitimate
Abu Zeid explained in the statement that Egypt and Sudan seeking Arab support does not represent a violation of the Declaration of Principles that was signed by the three sides in 2015.
Abu Zeid also refuted Ethiopia’s repeated claim that Addis Ababa has taken into account the concerns of Egypt and Sudan during the construction of the GERD.
“This claim contradicts the reality that the negotiations have been going on for over a decade without any tangible progress or sincere consideration for the rights of the downstream countries,” Abu Zeid said.
He called on the Ethiopian side to stop placing the blame on the other parties “who are simply demanding that Addis Ababa commits to reach a legally binding agreement through negotiations, an agreement which takes into account the existential concerns of the downstream countries and achieves the development aspirations of the Ethiopian people.
Against all concerns expressed by Egypt and Sudan over the filling and operation of the GERD and in the absence of a comprehensive and legally binding agreement between the three sides, Ethiopia has carried out the first three phases of the filling of the dam over the past three years and is preparing to carry out the fourth phase of filling in July of 2023.
Moreover, Ethiopia started generating electricity from the GERD in 2022 without reaching a comprehensive agreement with both downstream countries.
Egypt has maintained that these Ethiopian actions violate international law and the Presidential Statement of the UN Security Council issued in September 2021.
Egypt has repeatedly emphasised that it supports development in Africa and is not against the construction of dams on the Nile, including the GERD.