Egypt, Sudan urge UN action on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Ethiopia says ‘no’

Egypt, Sudan urge UN action on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Ethiopia says ‘no’

Egypt and Sudan urged the UN Security Council on Thursday 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 requested the meeting and sent their foreign ministers to New York to urge the council to act, claiming that ten years of negotiations with Ethiopia had failed and that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or GERD, is beginning a second filling of its reservoir, violates a 2015 agreement but poses “an existential threat” to 150 million people in their downstream nations.

The dam on the Blue Nile is 80 percent 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.

Seleshi Bekele Awulachew, Ethiopia’s water minister, told the Security Council that filling the reservoir was part of the dam’s development and that the Security Council should stay out of the Nile water issue, adding that no topic is more important than preserving world 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.
Ethiopia’s lack of political will was blamed by Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry and Sudan’s Foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi.
They urged the Security Council to approve a Tunisian-drafted resolution requiring Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia to negotiate a legally binding agreement under AU auspices within six months “that ensures Ethiopia’s ability to generate hydropower… while preventing significant harm to downstream states’ water security.”

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.”

Sudan and Egypt believe reaching an agreement  may be in six months provided political will is available, according to Al-Mahdi.

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