The session follows the failure of talks between the two downstream countries and Ethiopia. Negotiations were meant to culminate in a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the Ethiopian dam.
The UNSC meeting comes three days after Ethiopia had announced it started the second filling of the dam in a unilateral action, a move against which consequences Egypt and Sudan had been warning for months. The two downstream countries have repeatedly voiced their categorical rejection of the filling.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Sudanese counterpart Mariam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdy are attending the New York session after having spent the past four days in meetings with UN officials and representatives of permanent and non-permanent state members in the council to explain the dam crisis.
Ahram Online is covering the session live. Reload the page frequently to get the latest updates.
The United Nation Security Council (UNSC) has started a closed-door consultation session at the expert level on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam's (GERD) dispute between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, only a few hours before the UN body members convene to discuss the issue later on the day, sources in New York told Ahram Online.
Ahead of the consultations session, which is set to last till 7pm Cairo local time, the member state of the UN body had submitted their notes concerning the Egyptian-Sudanese GERD-focused draft resolution that was submitted by Tunisia to the international body on Friday.
An amended draft resolution will be prepared by the end of the experts' consultations to be distributed on Thursday night prior to the UNSC session, which is slated for 9pm Cairo local time or on Friday morning at most, the sources added.
Another consultation session, the sources noted, is set to be held on Monday on the final draft resolution before it is put to vote between 14-16 July.
The sources added that the voting will take place at the request of the concerned parties after setting the date of the session in accordance with the rules followed by the UN Security Council.
Putting off the votes nearly a week after the UNSC session will give Egypt and Sudan a chance to further explain the situation and secure the needed votes of the international body's member states to pass the draft resolution, sources told Ahram online on Wednesday. Read more
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry is set today to warn members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) against the “possible worrying consequences” of allowing Ethiopia to get away with its unending intransigence that has blocked all possible chances so far to reach an agreement among the three Blue Nile Basin countries (Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt) on the filling and operation of the mega dam that Addis Ababa is building on the Blue Nile.
According to an informed Egyptian source, Shoukry’s statement will go beyond the speech of last year, when the top Egyptian diplomat, in June 2020, briefed the council on the length and width of Egyptian diplomatic attempts to work with Sudan and Ethiopia to secure a deal that would guarantee Ethiopia its economic interests without inflicting massive harm on Egypt’s water rights. Read more
The Sundanese News Agency has published the letter sent by the Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas to his Ethiopian counterpart Seleshi Bekele on Wednesday, saying that the second filling of the dam’s reservoir was in direct contradiction with the principles of cooperation and of not causing significant harm as stipulated by international law.
The minister expressed hope in the letter that Ethiopia would accept Sudan’s proposal to resume talks on the GERD as soon as possible, provided that the negotiations would be effective and meaningful. Read more
Sources told Dubai-based Al-Hadath News channel that Ethiopia has rejected in the past few hours international mediation attempts to stop the second filling of the reservoir.
According to the channel, the upstream country refused to return to the negotiations on the condition that it stops the second filling. Ethiopia also refuses to adhere to the Washington agreement of early February 2020, which it had refused to sign.
The channel added that Ethiopia wants to return to the negotiations only after the second filling is complete, and insists that the African Union should be the only sponsors of these negotiations.
The European Union (EU) has expressed its “regret” over Ethiopia's decision to commence with the second filling of the GERD's reservoir despite the absence of a binding agreement with Egypt and Sudan.
The EU called upon the three parties to resume negotiations under the aegis of the African Union, Al-Ghad TV channel reported on Thursday. Read full statement here
An hour before the meeting starts here are some important facts about the Nile river.
At 6,695 kilometres (4,160 miles), the Nile is one of the world's longest rivers and a crucial supplier of water and hydropower in a largely arid region.
Its drainage basin of more than three million square kilometres (1.16 million square miles) covers 10 countries: Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
The two main tributaries -- the White Nile and the Blue Nile -- converge in Khartoum before flowing north through Egypt and into the Mediterranean Sea.
Around 84 billion cubic metres of water is estimated to flow along the Nile every year. Read more
A general view shows the River Nile with houses and farmland in Cairo, Egypt November 6, 2019. REUTERS
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi discussed with his Tunisian counterpart President Kais El-Said the latest developments in the GERD issue. During the telephone he received from El-Said, El-Sisi expressed his appreciation for Tunisia’s support for both Egypt and Sudan’s efforts at the UNSC to safeguard their water rights.
Tunisia is the only Arab non-permanent member in UNSC in its current session. Tunisia has also presented a draft resolution aiming to resume the GERD talks between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia within six months to reach a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation policies of the GERD, while the second filling is to be suspended immediately.
The UNSC session on GERD starts
Special envoy to the United Nations for the horn of Africa Parfait Onanga outlines the crux of the GERD issue and explains the position of each of the concerned parties, briefing the council on the current state of negotiations and encouraging Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to cooperate to find a solution to the GERD crisis. “I call on all parties to remain engaged and to avoid any pronouncements that would increase the tensions in a region that is already subject to a series of challenges including the impact of COVID 19” said Onanga
The representative of the DRC acknowledges that the current state of the GERD can compromise the stability and wellbeing of neighbouring countries Egypt and Sudan.
“It appears that 90 percent of the technical problems have been resolved, and now it remains for the parties to iron out the outstanding technical and legal differences, namely the nature of the agreement to be signed, the dispute resolution mechanism, and water flow management during drought periods,” he said.
Tunisia’s permanent representative to the United Nations Tarek Ladeb has asked the United Nations Security Council to intervene in the GERD issue by encouraging the three parties to resume negotiations under the umbrella of the African Union and with the encouragement of the international community.
Ladeb called for time-bound talks with the aim of reaching a legally binding agreement as proposed in the draft resolution submitted by Tunisia on Friday.
The agreement, Ladeb added, should be reached within a reasonable timeframe and should help upstream Ethiopia achieve its objectives without causing harm to downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.
"It is not impossible… it only needs a genuine political will and refraining from taking any unilateral measures," Ladeb assured.
Norwegian Representative to the UNSC Mona Juul said that a "sustainable solution" to the long-running issue can only be reached by the parties themselves by engaging in "constructive" talks and refraining from any action that may undermine negotiations.
Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the UN Dame Barbara Woodward said the UK is calling on the three countries to refrain from unilateral actions and to engage immediately in constructive talks under the auspices of the African Union and the support of the international community.
Woodward said that the UK supports the 2015 Declaration of Principles, especially the principles of not causing harm and the right to utilise resources, adding that the UK has a close relationship with all three countries.
The representative of Estonia asserted that there are no easy solutions to the GERD crisis and that all parties involved will have to make concessions and negotiate in good faith to arrive at a fair solution.
“It is crucial to find a peaceful solution at the earliest opportunity before tensions escalate. We are urging all parties to refrain from taking unilateral action to avoid escalation,” he said.
United States representative Linda Thomas-Greenfield said her country is ready to support any collaborative efforts to resolve the GERD issue by reaching a "balanced and equitable" solution.
The US representative said the African Union is the most appropriate entity to address the GERD dispute, while assuring the US' willingness to assist in the process by helping resolve the outstanding technical points.
The US diplomat assured that the concerns of Sudan and Egypt regarding the safety, operation and filling of the dam can be reconciled with Ethiopia’s development needs.
"We urge the three parties to refrain from any action or statement that could jeopardise negotiations," she concluded.
Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya said that the Russian Federation is closely following the GERD issue and it notes the legitimate concerns of Sudan and Egypt concerning the Ethiopian dam, especially during times of drought.
Russia believes that only diplomacy and negotiations will help resolve the dispute, as was the case previously in the Declaration of Principles, Nebenzya said.
The Russian representative added that Russia has concerns about the use of the rhetoric of force in comments exchanged between the three countries.
“We believe that gradually reaching an agreement could lead to de-escalation between the three countries,” he said, adding that all the countries of the Nile Basin should participate in talks about the GERD under the auspices of AU.
Nebenzya added that Russia does not believe that increasing the number of mediators would be beneficial, but that the matter is up to the three countries.
Nebenzya also offered Russian satellite monitoring of GERD’s filling process if the three countries agree.
T. S. Tirumurti, the permanent representative of India to the United Nations, said that India, as both a downstream and upstream country with transboundary rivers, knows firsthand the challenges and concerns of the three countries.
India believes the Declaration of Principles is a good basis for continuing negotiations under the auspices of the African Union to resolve the dispute, Tirumurti said.
Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations Zhang Jun said that China appreciates the legitimate concerns of Sudan and Egypt, and that it calls for the immediate resumption of talks between the three countries under the auspices of the AU.
Zhang added that the 2015 Declaration of Principles is an important reference for resolving the dispute as well as a good basis for talks.
Representative of France Nicolas De Riviere said that France supports resolving the GERD crisis through dialogue, taking into consideration the current challenges faced by each of the concerned parties and recognising the mounting tensions caused by the GERD situation after 10 years of negotiations.
“All the involved parties have legitimate interests, but after 10 years of negotiation, trust has been shattered,” De Riviere said.
De Riviere also acknowledged that it is the responsibility of the Security Council to prevent a prolonged dispute from becoming a threat to international peace, and that the filling of the dam’s reservoir stokes tensions between the involved parties.
De Riviere also called on observers to take a more active role in the negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that the GERD poses an existential threat to Egypt’s population of over 100 million people. He added that mere days before the UNSC session was set to convene, Addis Ababa commenced with the second filling without reaching a legally binding deal with the downstream countries.
Ethiopia has unilaterally started filling the reservoir without first reaching an agreement to protect downstream countries from danger, which illustrates Addis Ababa's disregard of international law and its intention to impose a fait accompli, Shoukry said.
Shoukry called on the UNSC to take a step similar to the one taken earlier today by the European Union, which has denounced Ethiopia’s unilateral step.
The FM urged the 15-member body to live up to its responsibility to preserve peace and security.
Egypt has engaged in a decade of negotiations with Ethiopia to reach an agreement to secure the interests of all parties involved, Shoukry said, noting that while Egypt has displayed commitment to Ethiopia's prosperity and development goals by calling for a legally binding deal, Ethiopia wants non-binding guidelines on the dam’s filling and operation.
The desired agreement must be reasonable and equitable and must ensure Egypt's water rights, especially during periods of drought. Read full text here
Sudan’s Foreign Minister Mariam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi called on the Security Council to play a positive role to resolve the GERD issue. She stressed that her country reaffirms the need to continue the GERD talks under the auspices of the African Union to reach a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam.
The Sudanese FM said her country supports Ethiopia’s right to development, but under the condition that this does not harm downstream countries.
Citing a number of successful examples of transboundary water management, like for the Senegal river in 1972, Al-Mahdi said that Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan can reach such an agreement if there is a real will to reach a legally binding deal.
“In the absence of a legally binding agreement, the advantages of the GERD can turn into a threat to the populations of Sudan and Egypt,” the foreign minister said.
The Sudanese FM said that Sudan's approach to the GERD is based on three points: the security of Sudanese citizens, the security of Sudan’s dams, and the strategic security of Sudan.
“[In 2020], Ethiopia unilaterally informed Sudan that they would release nearly 4 billion cubic metres of water in only two weeks, which led us to inform citizens to evacuate their homes, and you can imagine the horror this caused for civilians,” she said.
She also said that immediately after the first filling of the GERD reservoir in July 2020, the impact caused drought and three major three stations stopped working in Khartoum
Minister Al-Mahdi also said that 70 percent of the agricultural land in Sudan depends on the Roseires Dam, which is connected to other dams in the country.
“The Roseires Dam is in danger, as are other dams in the country. How can we plan for future agricultural projects if there is no legally binding agreement?” she said.
“This is causing and will cause more trouble,” she said.
“Sudan participated effectively in all of the AU-led negotiations, but they all failed without reaching an agreement due to Ethiopia’s stubbornness,” she said.
Nevertheless, the Sudanese foreign minister called for the resumption of the talks under the umbrella of the African Union and called on Ethiopia to abstain from taking unilateral actions.
The Ethiopian minister of irrigation called upon Egypt and Sudan to take part in the AU’s green belt afforestation program in order to make better use of the water resources available to Nile Basin countries.
“It must also be clear that the underlying problem for the difference between the three countries is the quest to preserve the colonial and monopolistic status quo over the Nile,” the Ethiopian minister said.
The minister also asserted that Ethiopia will exercise restraint and cooperate with neighbouring countries, but stressed that Ethiopia does not respond well to political pressure.
The minister also said that Ethiopia is attempting to undo a colonial heritage.
“It is only fair that a country which generates 77 billion cubic meters of water impounds a small fraction of the annual inflow for this hydroelectric dam. Egypt and Sudan do not need to convince us of the fortunes they will acquire upon the completion of the Dam,” he said.
Ethiopia also said that it is not the place of the Security Council to mediate this conflict.
The Ethiopian minister asserted that there will be no damage to neighbouring countries amid the filling of the GERD reservoir.