Mar 3 , 2020

Seleshi Bekele (PhD) (left), minister of Water, Irrigation & Energy and Gedu Andargachew(right), minister of Foreign Affairs.

Ethiopian authorities hope to see the United States will rectify its 'mistaken statement' on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) inferring that Ethiopia should hold back on starting to fill the Dam in July before inking an agreement with Egypt and Sudan.

It is not wrong, says Gedu Andargachew, Minister Foreign Affairs, during a press briefing today he gave today. "We believe the United States will correct [it]."

The authorities responded to a statement from the US government that pushed Ethiopia to sign an agreement before starting water filling and final testing. Gedu spoke to the media alongside with Seleshi Bekele (PhD), minister of Water, Irrigation & Energy, and Nefussu Tilahun, spokesperson of the Prime Minister's Office, accompanied by Reta Alemu, a legal advisor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The three countries have been in technical meetings in Washington, D.C. involving the World Bank and the United States as observers. However, at the end of last week, the Department of the Treasury issued a statement implying agreements have been reached and urged Ethiopia to sign.

Dubbed the "Guidelines and Rules on the First Filling & Annual Operation of the GERD," the document was prepared with the technical input from the World Bank. It has incorporated an added requirements about drought mitigation, according to Sileshi.

"We needed to go back to our computers to model and analyse the new proposals before signing the document," he said.

Ethiopia is preparing a legal document rephrasing the terms in the proposed document and hopes to table it during the upcoming negotiations.

Even though the United States started its role as an observer, it began acting as a mediator during the negotiation that was held mid-February, according to Gedu.

"Our negotiators voiced their concerns back then, and we even wrote a letter expressing our discontent," he told reporters.

Though the Ethiopian authorities are not happy with the United States' role in the process, they hope to continue negotiations.

"We don't think dropping out of the negotiations will benefit Ethiopia," said Gedu.

While the negotiations continue, the government says construction has not stopped at the Dam, which they claim has reached 71pc completion. It hopes to start water filling - amounting 4.9 billion cubic meters - in the coming rainy season and start testing by February next year.

Ethiopia has the full rights to construct and operationalise the Dam, since it is building it with its own finances, resources and inside its own territory, according to Gedu.

PUBLISHED ON Mar 03,2020 [ VOL 20 , NO 1036]

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