-“All options are open” Egypt -“No interest can be advanced through intimidation” Ethiopia
Egypt and Ethiopia are at odds once more over the operation and filling of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), with the foreign ministries of the two nations exchanging sharp remarks.
Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, told local media that “all options are open, and all possibilities remain available.”
It is unclear whether Shoukry means that Egypt is considering military action or that diplomatic pressure is being intensified.
“We just declare all options open without defining specific procedures, and this serves the Egyptian interest in retaining all available alternatives,” added Shoukry.
On March 16, 2023, the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement immediately denouncing Shoukry’s remark.
“The Ministry rejects the irresponsible statement attributed to the foreign minister of Egypt threatening Ethiopia with yet another ‘all options are open’ declaration’”
Ethiopia’s response underscored that “no interest can be advanced through threats and intimidation. If approached in good faith and with full respect for principles of international law, amicable solutions between the three countries are within reach in the negotiations under the auspices of the AU. Yet again, Ethiopia reiterates its calls on the parties to re-engage the AU platform and reach a negotiated solution on GERD. Ethiopia remains committed to a win-win settlement on this matter.”
Shoukry’s harsh statement came just a week after he pledged to fellow Arab nations to pressure Ethiopia. While addressing the Arab League meeting in Cairo on March 8, 2023, Shoukry asked the Arab nations to press Ethiopia to halt “unilateral and uncooperative practices and embrace the necessary political will to accept one of the compromise solutions offered on the negotiation table”.
Shoukry also linked the GERD issue to the national security of Arab nations. Ethiopia issued another response to this move too, last week, stating “[GERD] is an African dispute and its solution will be African.”
Sudan, who has been on Egypt’s side for long, has switched sides lately. By the end of January 2023, Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan, chair of the Sudanese Transitional Sovereignty Council, announced that “Sudan and Ethiopia are aligned and in agreement on all issues regarding the GERD.” The Sovereignty Council made the statement after PM Abiy Ahmed (PhD) traveled to Khartoum to meet Al-Burhan.
Demeke Mekonen, the deputy PM and foreign minister of Ethiopia, called on the US to take a balanced position on the issue of the GERD and urged Egypt to cease internationalizing the Nile issue and come to a win-win approach.’ Demeke made the call during his discussion with Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, during his visit to Addis Ababa this week.
Egypt has demanded that a binding agreement be signed with Ethiopia before the completion of the GERD filling. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El Sisi reiterated this to Blinken in December on the sidelines of the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington. While Ethiopia advocates for such talks to take place under the auspices of the AU, Egypt is shifting diplomatic pressure from the US to the Arab world, as the US normalizes and re-engages its diplomacy with Ethiopia.