The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has been marked by friction between the three major African countries affected by the project: Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt. Since the Grand Dam was officially inaugurated in 2011 by then Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the three African countries have been unable to reach an agreement that satisfies all parties.
The main point of contention is the potential impact of the construction on the flow of the Nile River, on which both Egypt and Sudan depend. The Renaissance Dam aims to store 63 billion cubic metres of water and create a hydroelectric plant producing up to 6,000 MW.
For Ethiopia, this project is a source of national pride, as it is the culmination of an ambitious process of modernising its mainly agricultural economy towards a more industrialised economy centred on the exploitation and export of hydropower. However, for Sudan and especially Egypt, it poses a threat, as the latter depends on the Nile for about 96% of its water consumption, and fears that the dam will drastically reduce its flow.
Relations between the three countries involved have become increasingly strained, especially after the first stage of filling the dam without prior consent last summer. Egypt has repeatedly accused Ethiopia of blocking negotiations and making it impossible to reach an agreement.
In a new attempt to revive the negotiations, the Egyptian foreign ministry has announced that Cairo welcomes and supports the Sudanese proposal to form an international committee to mediate during the negotiation process on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. These meetings would therefore consist of the three countries involved, in addition to the chairperson of the African Union (AU), the Congolese Felix Tshisekedi, and representatives of the United States, the European Union and the United Nations.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, during a joint press conference with his Sudanese counterpart, Maryam Al-Sadiq, expressed hope that the move would boost negotiations and help Cairo, Khartoum and Addis Ababa reach an agreement as soon as possible on Ethiopia's filling of the GERD lake.
Egyptian spokesman Ahmed Hafez said that during the meeting, Shoukry expressed his appreciation for the efforts of the Democratic Republic of Congo during its chairmanship of the AU, and that he hoped that Kinshasa could play a key role in helping to reach a legally binding agreement on the rules for the filling and operation of the GERD, taking into account the interests of the three countries.
Similarly, Mohammed Abdel Atty, Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, affirmed Egypt's commitment to safeguarding its water rights, and insisted that a legally binding agreement between the three parties was the only acceptable way to end the conflict.