By Addis Getachew
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
Ethiopia's Foreign Ministry spokesman on Thursday said construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam was a "matter of life or death for Ethiopia too".
Meles Alem's remarks in a press briefing in capital Addis Ababa came in a clear reaction to incessant reports by the Egyptian media quoting Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi as saying that Nile was a matter of life or death to Egypt -- an Egyptian catchword which al-Sisi repeated at a recent inauguration of a fishery in Egypt.
Alem dubbed as "irrelevant" what he described as "destructive reports being disseminated by some Egyptian media and institutions against the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam".
It has been six years since Ethiopia launched the GERD project, a $4.8 billion mega hydro-electric dam project on the Nile near the Ethiopia-Sudan border.
Last month, the water ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan dispersed from a meeting in Cairo without reaching agreement on the "inception report" put forth by the international consultants -- BRL and Artelia -- hired by the three countries to study the impact of the dam.
Ever since this latest unsuccessful meeting, there has been strong word coming from the Egyptian side.
"Ethiopia doesn’t need to get permission from anyone to use its own natural resources, including to build the dam, whose construction has been completed by 60 percent now," Alem said, adding Ethiopia would continue to cooperate with Sudan and Egypt besides accelerating the construction of the dam.
Behind recent fallout
A top-notch hydraulic expert who is very close to the tripartite negotiations between the three countries told Anadolu Agency on terms of anonymity that the recent meeting in Cairo failed to approve the "Inception Report" submitted by the international consultants as the latter came up with more studies to be conducted which is not included in the scope of work given to them.
"Ethiopia and Sudan did not accept that," the source said, adding the meeting was dispersed indefinitely without a specific future date.
According to the source, "… they say they would study the impact of GERD on salinity in Egyptian delta," where he said "a saline build-up normally comes from Mediterranean Sea" because of a rising sea level. This has no relation with GERD, he added.
The source went on to say that "Egypt said the 1959 agreement should be the base of the study".
"Ethiopia said I don’t recognize this agreement, because Ethiopia wasn’t a part of this agreement. So those were the main differences."
According to the source, the leaders of the three countries would meet in December and it would be wise for all to start negotiating on the filling of the dam as a best way forward.
Further bickering between Sudan, Egypt
Egypt's foreign minister on Wednesday said that any water that Egypt might have taken earlier from Sudan's share of the Nile River had been taken with Khartoum's consent.
Sameh Shoukry made the remarks in a Wednesday interview with flagship Egyptian state daily Al-Ahram.
Shoukry’s comments came in response to recent assertions by Ibrahim Ghandour, his Sudanese counterpart, that in recent years Egypt had frequently dipped into Sudan’s share of Nile water.
Egypt, Ghandour said Tuesday, feared it would have to halt this practice once Ethiopia completed its Grand Renaissance Dam project.
In Wednesday's interview, Shoukry described Ghandour’s claims as "inaccurate", going on to assert that Sudan "usually exhausts its entire annual share of [Nile] water," which, he noted, stood at some 18.5 billion cubic meters.
Egypt fears the dam's construction will negatively affect its historical share of Nile water, which -- under a colonial-era water-sharing treaty -- stands at 55.5 billion cubic meters of water per year.
Addis Ababa, for its part, says electricity generated by the dam -- which was initially slated for completion this year -- will help eradicate poverty and contribute to the country’s development.