Delivering her a speech in Amharic at the 74th session of the United Nation’s General Assembly (UNGA), the first Ethiopian president do so in UNGA, Sahle-Work Zewdie reflected Ethiopia’s stance with regards to the Egyptian President’s earlier speech dwelling on the longstanding tripartite negotiations over the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which is being constructed on the Nile River, the longest river in the world.
Among the major issues highlighted, the ongoing negotiation between Ethiopia and the downstream countries has apparently gained more weight with the President’s remarks, which came two days after the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah El-sisi, delivered his accusing the Ethiopian government of holding the ongoing negotiations back.
In his speech, El-Sisi stressed that Egypt understands the GERD; however, “It is not based on real studies.”
“Unfortunately, the negotiation with our partners [in Ethiopia] is not successful so far,” he told the assembly, adding, “The Nile is a matter of life and an issue of existence for Egypt.”
“Egypt still hopes for an agreement that will secure the common interests of the peoples of the Blue Nile, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. The continued impasse in the negotiations process on the dam will have a negative repercussion on the stability as well as the development in the region in general, and in Egypt, in particular,” said the president.
He further said that while supporting Ethiopia’s reason for constructing the Dam, he disagrees with the country’s timing, doing so without conducting the necessary studies on a project of such magnitude. Front-end engineering and design (FEED) studies are necessary, the president said, because the well-being of all the downstream countries, including Egypt is paramount to any multibillion-dollar infrastructure project and its related investments.
“For Egypt, the water of the Nile is a matter of life. It is an existential matter and this places a great responsibility on the international community to play a constructive role in urging all parties to demonstrate flexibility in order to achieve a mutually satisfactory agreement,” said El-Sisi.
Meanwhile, President Sahlework, voicing the Ethiopian side, told the assembly that the utilization of the Nile water offers a “Unique opportunity for trans-boundary cooperation between the sisterly countries of the region.” “It should never be an object of competition and mistrust,” she said adding, “Ethiopia strongly believes that the utilization of the Nile river shall be best, in consideration of the principles of international law namely the principles of equitable and reasonable utilization of natural resources and the causing of no significant harm.”
“We have always been keen and committed to the establishment of a multilateral legal regime on the basin-wide utilization of the river," Sahle-Work told the Assembly.
Sahlework, who has become the first Ethiopian woman Head of State to address the UNGA, used the stage to highlight the ongoing reform activities being carried out in Ethiopia which ranges from building a democratization process to the economic development as well as the efforts Ethiopia has made in combating the devastating effects of climate change.