Ethiopia is dismayed by the “Resolution” of the Executive Council of the League of Arab States on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) issued on 15 June 2021 after its meeting held in Doha, Qatar. Ethiopia rejects the “Resolution” in its entirety. In fact, this is not the first time the League of Arab States issued a statement regarding its misguided positions on the GERD. As a result of its egregious support to the baseless claims of Egypt and the Sudan regarding the GERD, the League of Arab States has already squandered its opportunity to play a constructive role. It should be abundantly clear that futile attempts like this to internationalize and politicize the GERD will not lead to sustainable regional cooperation in the utilization and management of the Nile.
The League of Arab States should know that utilization of the Nile waters is also an existential matter for Ethiopia. It is about lifting millions of its people out of abject poverty and meeting their energy, water and food security needs. Ethiopia is exercising its legitimate right to use its water resources in full respect for international water laws and the principle of causing no significant harm. Ethiopia firmly believes that it is only through cooperation and dialogue that the water security of any of the Nile Basin states can be achieved. The Nile is a shared resource and not an exclusive property of Egypt and the Sudan. That is why it is perplexing that the League of Arab States places particular emphasis on the water security of the two downstream countries in complete disregard to the interest of the rest of the Nile riparian states, which are the sources of the river. There is no better example than this to demonstrate the organization’s unhelpful and misguided approach towards the Nile issue.
From the outset, Ethiopia has done everything possible to accommodate the concerns of the two downstream countries in good faith with the hope of ushering in a new era of cooperation among the Nile Basin countries. It is the intransigence of both Egypt and the Sudan, which has made it extremely difficult to make any meaningful progress in the tripartite negotiation. During the South African-led negotiation, it was Egypt and the Sudan that disrupted the negotiations seven times.
Despite the tremendous efforts by the DRC to create the necessary conditions for the resumption of the trilateral negotiations at the meeting held in Kinshasa from 3-5 April 2021, the two countries deliberately undermined the possibility of agreeing on a roadmap for the continuation of the negotiations. Ethiopia agreed to seven of the nine proposals contained in the draft communiqué prepared by the DRC, while Egypt and Sudan rejected the substantive parts of the communiqué. The two countries worked in concert to ensure the failure of the Kinshasa meeting by raising unrelated procedural issues. It is, therefore, regrettable that the League of Arab States decided to take a position on the AU-led negotiation without verifying the facts.
The League of Arab States also seems to be oblivious of the fact that the tripartite negotiation between Ethiopia, Egypt and the Sudan are guided by the Declaration of Principles (DoP), which the leaders of the three countries signed in 2015. The filling of the GERD will be conducted as per the plan in accordance with the DoP and the recommendation of the research group composed of experts from the three countries. Hence, Ethiopia categorically rejects the futile attempt by the League of Arab States to dictate terms regarding the filling of the GERD. As a regional organization, it would have been only appropriate for the League of Arab States to encourage the three parties to reach a win-win solution instead of its unhelpful, partial and unreasonable position.
What is even more disappointing is the attempt by Egypt and the Sudan to unnecessarily politicize the GERD negotiation and try to make it an Arab issue. This clearly shows their lack of fidelity to the AU-led tripartite process. The GERD is an African issue, which needs an African solution. The disagreement between Ethiopia, Egypt and the Sudan can only be resolved through good faith negotiation and compromise in the spirit of finding African solutions to African problems. It is precisely because of this reason that the United Nations Security Council referred the matter to the African Union.
Therefore, the League of Arab States should desist from making such unhelpful statements, which will only serve to antagonize the relations between the three countries and undermine the tripartite negotiation. It should instead encourage Egypt and the Sudan to engage in good faith negotiation to find a win-win solution and lend its full support to the ongoing AU-led process in this regard. Once again, Ethiopia reaffirms its commitment to the Declaration of Principles and remains fully engaged in the AU-led tripartite negotiation process to find a mutually beneficial outcome on the GERD issue.
15 June 2021