Egypt says the unilateral measure violates international laws and regulations as tensions continue to rise over the huge dam built on the main tributary of the Nile.
Egypt has said it received an official warning from Ethiopia that it had begun the next phase of filling a huge controversial dam on the main tributary of the Nile River, raising tensions days before the next UN Security Council meeting on the question.
In a statement last Monday, the Egyptian irrigation ministry expressed its “firm rejection of this unilateral measure” and said the measure was “a violation of international laws and regulations governing projects built in the shared basins of the international rivers “.
The Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which will be considered Africa’s largest hydroelectric project when completed, is the source of a nearly-decade-long diplomatic confrontation between Ethiopia and the nations down Egypt and Sudan.
Addis Ababa says the project is essential for development, but the governments of Cairo and Khartoum fear it could restrict access to water for its citizens.
The volume of water accumulated would depend on the amount of seasonal rainfall falling in Ethiopia, Egyptian Irrigation Ministry spokesman Mohamed Ghanim told a local TV channel.
“It simply came to our notice then. We have a month or a month and a half ahead of us, ”he said.
Both Egypt and Sudan have been pressuring Ethiopia to sign a binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam and have urged the UN Security Council to take up the matter in recent weeks.
Tunisia called for Thursday’s meeting on behalf of Egypt and Sudan, a diplomatic source told AFP news agency. But France’s ambassador to the United Nations said last week that the council itself can do nothing but bring the parties together.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said in a note to the UN that the negotiations were at a standstill and accused Ethiopia of adopting “a policy of intransigence that undermines our efforts. to reach an agreement “.
The Ethiopian government had previously announced that it would move to the second phase of filling in July, with or without an agreement.
The Nile, which at about 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles) is one of the longest rivers in the world, is an essential source of water and electricity for dozens of East African countries.
Egypt, which depends on the Nile for almost all of its irrigation and drinking water, sees the dam as an existential threat.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi warned Ethiopia earlier this year that his government would not tolerate any measures to reduce Egypt’s share of water from the Nile.
He said “all options are open” if the Egyptian side is “touched”, and urged Addis Ababa to cooperate with Cairo and Khartoum to avoid any conflict.
Sudan expects the project to regulate annual floods, but fears its dams could be harmed without agreement on the Ethiopian operation.
The 145-meter (475-foot) mega dam, on which construction began in 2011, has a capacity of 74 billion cubic meters.
The filling began last year and Ethiopia announced in July 2020 that it had reached the target of 4.9 billion cubic meters, enough to test the dam’s first two turbines, a major milestone on the road to production. real energy.
The goal is to capture an additional 13.5 billion cubic meters this year.
Egypt and Sudan wanted a trilateral agreement on dam operations before any filling could begin.
But Ethiopia says it is a natural part of construction and therefore impossible to postpone.
Last year, Sudan said the process caused water shortages, including in Khartoum, a claim Ethiopia disputed.
Yasser Abbas, Sudan’s water minister, warned in April that if Ethiopia went ahead with the second phase of filling, his country “would file lawsuits against the Italian company that builds the dam and the Ethiopian government.” .
He said the demands would highlight that “the environmental and social impact as well as the dangers of the dam” have not been properly taken into account.