Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew said this week that the US was obviously biased in the dam negotiations it facilitated and observed with Sudan and Egypt, last month, as it was clearly manifested in the statement the Treasury Department issued on February 28, 2020.
In an exclusive interview with The Reporter, Gedu condemned the statement by the US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin regarding the negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) saying that it presented a demand even the Egyptians did not dare make.
Gedu asserted that the statement by the US Treasury was “unjust and stood in contradiction with Ethiopia’s national interest.”
While recognizing that the involvement of the US and the World Bank (WB) in the negotiations process has helped the negotiators narrow down their differences on certain issues, Gedu argued that the statement, released by secretary Mnuchin, was in no way acceptable to Ethiopia.
“Ethiopia protested when the US went against its self-prescribed role of an “observer” in the negotiations to preparing a draft text of the agreement,” he disclosed adding that “we had many issues that we needed to negotiate on and reach an agreement. The negotiation was still not concluded when they said we have to sign their draft document.”
Mnuchin’s department in the statement said, “Consistent with the principles set out in the DOP, and in particular the principles of not causing significant harm to downstream countries, final testing and filling [of GERD] should not take place without an agreement.”
Apart from this, the document that the Secretary of Treasury and the executive director of the WB David Malpass drafted was an annex for a larger document, which is yet to be completed, Gedu said.
Therefore, Ethiopia protested the signing of this annex arguing that the negotiations should proceed to resolve the outstanding issues which will then result in the signing of the full document.
The annex agreement document that the US presented dealt with issues related to water storage and release from the Ethiopian dam during droughts and prolonged drought years and dry and prolonged dry years.
“While our negotiators were dissenting the decision to draft an agreement document and even after we sent a letter stating our stance on the matter, the US Treasury Department was adamant to get it signed and they replied that they will prepare a draft document as the negotiating parties could not reach an agreement after years of negotiations,” Gedu complained.
Hence, Ethiopia skipped the final negotiation on the dam held in Washington DC on February 27, 2020, stating that there are disagreements that need to be resolved and it needs to discuss these issues internally.
“But we have told the US that the path that the US took was wrong and that it was unacceptable,” he asserted.
Asked whether the US sided with Egypt because of the dwindling partnership between the US and Ethiopia especially in the fight against terrorism, Gedu asserted that the agenda of terrorism is still on the table and the current situation calls for even more collaboration between the countries standing against terror.
Rather, he argues that he won’t take the statement by the Treasury Department as the position of the US government as is manifested in the opposition the Department has facing from some members of the US Congress.
Regarding Egypt’s effort to exert diplomatic pressure on Ethiopia especially through the Arab League, Gedu said that the League should have stood for peace and offer to broker an agreement between the countries rather than passing a resolution condemning Ethiopia.
“None other than the Arab League should have understood how much war, conflicts, and disagreements are dismantling countries. Most of the countries on the globe suffering from war and disagreement are members of the Arab League,” Gedu laments questioning whether the league wanted to bring peace and stability to the region.
Disclosing that Ethiopia asked for an explanation from Djibouti and Somalia regarding their stance on the League’s position, Gedu explained, these countries, despite their involvement in the passing of the resolution condemning Ethiopia, they do not believe that the resolution would play a positive role in bringing about peace to the region.
“In a letter correspondence we had with them, they said that the resolution passed by the League does not play a role in resolving the problem rather would aggravate the situation,” Gedu said. “They have told us that the problem would not be solved that way and we believe the other members of the League would follow the same suit.”
Speaking of when the negotiations would resume, he said the Ethiopian side does not believe that the negotiations has stopped. He rather said that it is a single meeting that was not held. Therefore, after Ethiopia finishes the discussions it is conducting internally and when the Egyptians fully recognize that Ethiopia has the right to use its water resources, the negotiations will resume without any third party involved.