African Union to hold meeting on GERD Thursday

Ahram Online , Wednesday 23 Jun 2021

The meeting, which will be held under the aegis of the African Union, comes after both downstream countries asked the United Nations Security Council to intervene in the crisis

File Photo: This satellite image shows the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile river in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia. AP

The African Union (AU) is set to hold a meeting between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia on Thursday and Friday in a new bid to mend the row caused by the disputed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) after both downstream countries asked the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to intervene in the crisis, an Arab League (AL) official said.

The results of the meeting, which will be held at the level of irrigation ministers, will define the next steps by the permanent ambassadors of the Arab countries at the United Nations (UN); including Tunisia, a non-permanent member of the UNSC, in light of the AL's recent resolution that supports Egypt and Sudan in the decade-old dispute, Maged Abdel-Fattah, the AL representative to the UN told the media on Tuesday.

The meeting, Abdel-Fattah said, was due to be held last week but was adjourned at Addis Ababa's request until after its general elections, which were held on Monday.

The AL issued a resolution following an extraordinary meeting in Doha last week backing both downstream countries in the long-running dispute, asking the UNSC to intervene in the crisis after the AU-mediated talks on GERD's filling and operation rules stalled in April.

Both Egypt and Sudan have sent separate letters to the 15-member council, asking for a session on the dispute and seeking a resolution obliging Addis Ababa not to start the second filing of its Blue Nile dam -- an anticipated step by the upstream country in July that caused further tensions with downstream nations -- before a legally binding deal is reached.

The permanent ambassadors of the Arab countries at the UN are coordinating accordingly, said Abdel-Fattah, stressing that the Arab League moves are based on avoiding a collision between the Arab nation and Africa and giving the AU a full opportunity to help solve the 10-year-old row.

The resolution in Doha stressed the AL's rejection of any measures that would undermine the water share of Egypt and Sudan after Ethiopia had announced its intentions to start the second filling.

"If Ethiopia doesn't display a [sufficient] degree of flexibility, we will go to the Security Council," he said on the coming AU-sponsored meetings.

Cairo and Khartoum have been negotiating with Ethiopia for a decade now to reach an agreement regulating the rules of filling and operating the GERD as downstream countries view the controversial dam as a threat to their water security in the absence of a legal deal.

Egypt and Sudan, as a result, have resorted to international diplomacy, briefing regional and international counterparts on their stances and developments in the latest deadlock in negotiations, including addressing the UNSC.

In June 2020, the UNSC held an open session over the GERD dispute upon Egypt's request due to what it described as Ethiopia's "intransigence" in negotiations.

During the session, the council urged the three countries to reach a consensus and warned against unilateral actions. The three countries agreed to continue negotiations under the aegis of the AU.

Ethiopia, however, held 4.9 billion cubic metres of water in the reservoir a month later without coordinating with Egypt and Sudan.

Ethiopia plans to hold 13.5 billion cubic metres of water during the second filling of the GERD’s reservoir next month, a step that both Egypt and Sudan reject in the absence of a deal.

In its recent letter to the UNSC, Egypt highlighted the potential adverse effects of the unilateral filling and operation of this dam on peace, security, and stability on the Nile Basin and the Horn of Africa.

Sudan said if Ethiopia went ahead unilaterally with the second filing, the lives and safety of millions of Sudanese citizens will be in danger. 

Short link: