UNITED NATION: Egypt and Sudan have urged the UN Security Council to undertake preventive diplomacy and call for a legally binding agreement to resolve a dispute with Ethiopia over the availability of water from its dam on the Nile River, but Ethiopia insisted the matter can be solved by the African Union and many council members agreed.

Egypt and Sudan on Thursday called for the council meeting and sent their foreign ministers to New York to appeal for council action, saying 10 years of negotiations with Ethiopia have failed and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam or GERD is starting a second filling of its reservoir which not only violates a 2015 agreement but poses an existential threat to 150 million people in their downstream nations.

Dam on Blue Nile is 80pc complete and is expected to reach full generating capacity in 2023

The dam on the Blue Nile is 80 per cent complete and is expected to reach full generating capacity in 2023, making it Africa’s largest hydroelectric power plant and the world’s seventh-largest, according to reports in Ethiopia’s state media. Ethiopia says the $5 billion dam is essential to promote economic development and make sure the vast majority of its people don’t lack electricity.

Ethiopia’s water minister Seleshi Bekele Awulachew told the council that filling the reservoir was part of the dam’s construction and the Security Council should not be involved in the issue of Nile waters, saying no issue is further from its mandate of ensuring international peace and security.

The African Union is seized of the matter, and is ably facilitating our negotiation, he said. Ethiopia believes an agreement is within reach, given the necessary political will and the commitment to negotiate in good faith.

Awulachew said the Security Council should encourage Egypt and Sudan to seriously negotiate a settlement on the filling and operation of the GERD.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry and Sudan’s Foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi blamed Ethiopia for lacking political will.

They urged the Security Council to approve a Tunisian-drafted resolution that would require Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to negotiate a legally binding agreement within six months under AU auspices that ensures Ethiopia’s ability to generate hydropower ... while preventing the inflicting of significant harm on the water security of downstream states.

The draft encourages other parties to actively engage in the negotiations with a view to addressing outstanding technical and legal issues. And it urges Ethiopia to refrain from continuing to unilaterally fill the GERD reservoir and calls on Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to refrain from making any statements or taking any action that may jeopardize the negotiation process.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2021

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