Sisi to Ethiopia: Egypt’s portion of Nile water is a red line

“No one can take a drop of water from Egypt,” Egypt’s Sisi says on GERD dispute, warning Ethiopia dam risks ‘unimaginable instability’, and that Egyptian response will be felt if the country’s water supply is affected.

Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warned Tuesday that Ethiopia’s enormous dam, upstream on the Nile, risked causing “unimaginable instability”. He said that there would be severe regional consequences if Egypt’s water supply were affected by the giant hydropower dam being built by Ethiopia.

Sisi warning Ethiopia over the GERD dam and Egypt’s water rights

“Nobody will be permitted to take a single drop of Egypt’s water, otherwise the region will fall into unimaginable instability,” Sisi said in a press conference on the margins of his visit to the Suez Canal Authority today, stressing that his message is “not a threat.”

“If it happens, there will be inconceivable instability in the region that no one could imagine,” Sisi said

‘All our demands [in the dispute over the Ethiopian dam] fall within international laws that deal with the issues of cross-border waters,’ Sisi stressed.

Sisi also warned that a compromise in Egypt’s water share was a “red line”, pledging action if the country’s share of water from the Nile is jeopardized.

“A compromise to Egypt’s water share is a red line, and our response [if our water share is affected] will affect the stability of the whole region,” he told reporters..

“Our dialogue has always been rational and patient,” he said, stressing that Egypt “is not threatening anyone and has not threatened anyone.”

“Hostile action is ugly and has significant repercussions that could last for years, because nations do not forget,” he stressed.

Sisi added that Egypt’s battle in the GERD dispute was a “battle of negotiations”, adding that Cairo aims for a win-win situation for all parties involved in the talks.

“Every day, the international public opinion and top officials around the world see that Egypt is gaining ground on the GERD issue through its seriousness in negotiations to achieve a win-win situation for everyone and to ensure that no one party takes it all.”

Sisi said that the upcoming weeks would see an “additional move” in negotiations, aiming for a legally binding deal on the filling and operation of the dam, without revealing further details.

“All our demands fall within international laws that deal with the issues of cross-border waters,” he stressed.

The Egyptian leader’s comments come at a time when Ethiopia continues to refuse to sign any legally binding deal on the filling and operation of the GERD.

Addis Ababa also insists on moving forward with a second filling of the dam — to take place in July — despite the objections of Egypt and Sudan to the execution of such a move in the absence a legally binding deal.

The second filling aims to collect around 18.4 bcm of Blue Nile water, up from the 4.9 bcm secured during the first filling last year.

Sudan has proposed an international quartet made up of the African Union (AU), the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), and the US to mediate the talks which last collapsed in January.

Although AU-sponsored GERD talks last year included the AU, the US, and the EU as observers, the Sudanese proposal aims to introduce the UN to the talks and turn the four parties into mediators rather than mere observers.

Addis Ababa has rejected the proposal, saying it prefers African solutions instead.

Egypt has fully supported the Sudanese proposal on the quartet, stressing the importance that the renewed talks be effective and serious to maximize chances of success.

Egypt’s 100 million-plus population is dependent on the Nile water for 95 percent of its renewable water needs.

The country fears that the massive $4.8 billion Ethiopian hydropower project will significantly diminish its crucial water supply, which is already below scarcity level.

Meanwhile, Sudan fears the GERD will put the operation of its Roseires dam and the lives of Sudanese citizens – approximately 20 million Sudanese people – at “a very high risk” if an agreement regulating its operation and filling is not reached before the second filling.

Egypt, along with its southern neighbor Sudan, is seeking a legally binding agreement over the operations of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which Addis Ababa says is crucial to its economic development.

However, talks have repeatedly stalled, and Ethiopia began filling the reservoir behind the dam last year with no deal in place.

It is expected to add water for a second year after seasonal rains start this summer.

The construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile close to Ethiopia’s border with Sudan, has heightened regional tensions, with downstream countries Egypt and Sudan both pressing for a deal.

Egypt fears the dam will imperil its supplies of Nile water while Sudan is concerned about the dam’s safety and about regulating water flows through its own dams and water stations.

“Ethiopia doesn’t have any intention to cause harm to Sudan and Egypt. But we also don’t want to live in darkness,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said last week.