UN Security Council vote on GERD draft resolution may be pushed back a week: Sources

Ahmed Morsy , Wednesday 7 Jul 2021

The delay will give Egyptian officials the opportunity to meet the foreign ministers of the Security Council member states in person to further explain the issue, diplomatic sources in New York said

UN Security Council
UN Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York on 29 June, 2021. (photo courtesy of the UN)

The United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) vote on the draft resolution Tunisia submitted on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) could be put off until next week, diplomatic sources in New York told Ahram Online.

The sources opined that extending the vote for a week “will give Egypt and Sudan a chance to further explain the situation and secure the needed votes of UNSC member states to pass the draft resolution without amending it."

The ministerial meeting on Libya will be held in New York on 14 July. Therefore, it is better to push the vote on GERD back to 15-16 July to have the opportunity to meet the foreign ministers of the Security Council member states in person to further explain the issue and achieve a comprehensive understanding, the sources added.

Tunisia, the only Arab member of the 10 elected and non-permanent members of the UNSC, submitted last Friday an Egyptian-Sudanese GERD-focused draft resolution to the UN body, which is due to convene on Thursday upon the request of Cairo and Khartoum to discuss the issue.

According to AFP, the draft resolution calls on "Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan to resume negotiations at the joint invitation of the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) and the Secretary-General of the United Nations to finalise, within a period of six months, the text of a binding agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD." 

The resolution stresses that the agreement should "ensure Ethiopia's ability to generate hydropower from the GERD while preventing the inflicting of significant harm on the water security of downstream states."

It also urges the "three countries to refrain from making any statements, or taking any action that may jeopardise the negotiation process, and urges Ethiopia to refrain from continuing to unilaterally fill the GERD reservoir."

Ethiopia has already commenced its second-year filling of the GERD as Egypt and Sudan announced on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, that Addis Ababa had notified them of its unilateral move, which both downstream countries rejected with Cairo describing it as a "blatant and dangerous" violation of international laws as well as the Declaration of Principles signed in 2015.

Should the draft resolution be passed, in light of the current version of its text, Ethiopia has to halt its ongoing second filling of the GERD’s 74 bcm reservoir and postpone it to summer 2022. The filling takes places during the flood season – which starts in July and ends in September.

During the daily press briefing, Spokesman for the Secretary-General of the UN Stéphane Dujarric said on Tuesday that Inger Andersen, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the Political Affairs department will both have a briefing following Thursday’s UNSC session on GERD.

“What is also important is that there be no unilateral action that would undermine any search for solutions. So, it’s important that people recommit themselves to engage in good faith in a genuine process,” Dujarric told journalists on Tuesday.

“Solutions to this need to be guided by example… by solutions that have been found for others who share waterways, who share rivers, and that is based on the principle of equitable and reasonable utilisation and the obligation not to cause significant harm,” Dujarric added.

Throughout the decade-long negotiations, Ethiopia has been evadeing the legally binding deal that Egypt and Sudan are seeking on the filling and operation of the GERD, and only seeks “guidelines” that can be modified any time at its discretion. Ethiopia has also been opposing any international mediation proposed by the two downstream countries to facilitate negotiations and bring the views closer.

In the past few days, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry held intensive consultations with the council permanent state members’ representatives ahead of Thursday’s GERD session, highlighting Egypt's stance that is based on the need to reach a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam that takes into account the interests of the three countries and preserves Egypt's water rights and interests.

In earlier statements, Shoukry said requesting a GERD-focused session aimed at placing the UNSC and the international community before their responsibilities because the GERD issue threatens international peace, security and stability, and the UNSC has to rectify this and work to contain any possible escalation.

Egypt, which relies on the world's longest River Nile for more than 95 per cent of its renewable water resources, fears the unilateral filling and operation of the massive dam will significantly diminish its water supply, which at 560 m3 per person annually, is already well below the international threshold for water scarcity.

The country, whose 100 million-plus population is expected to increase by 75 million by 2050, is considered one of the most water-scarce countries in the world as it receives around 60 bcm annually – the majority of which flow from the River Nile – though its needs stand at 114 bcm.

Sudan said the unilateral filling of GERD would threaten the lives of millions of its people living downstream the dam, jeopardise the operational safety of its dams, and consequently risk Sudan's national security. 

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