In a meeting that lasted for over three hours, members of the UN Security Council called on Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt to complete their talks, to settle the dispute over the GERD, under the umbrella of the African Union, in good faith and away from any unilateral action or agitating statements, in the pursuit of a deal that could allow the three countries to reach an agreement that accommodates their aspirations and concerns.
Foreign ministers of Egypt and Sudan, Sameh Shoukry and Mariam Sadek Al-Mahdi, addressed the meeting to express the growing concerns of the two downstream countries over the construction of a mega dam over the Blue Nile by Ethiopia, the upstream state, without any agreement or coordination with Egypt and Sudan.
“Egypt – a nation of over one hundred million souls – is facing an existential threat,” Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told the members of the UN Security Council today in New York. “A grand structure of mammoth proportions has been constructed across the artery that bequeaths life to the people of Egypt,” he added.
The top Egyptian diplomat reviewed at length the details of a long and inconclusive road of negotiations that Egypt, along with Sudan, had gone into with Ethiopia to secure that the filling and operation of the GERD would help Ethiopia secure its development objectives without causing a damaging harm to the downstream countries.
Shoukry underlined the composed and self-restrained reaction that Egypt showed to Ethiopia’s unilateral execution of the first filling last July only days after a first UN Security Council on the dispute.
“We got engaged in a whole year of talks that were convened and facilitated by our African brethren to forge an African solution to this intractable problem,” Shourky said. “And yet, we have failed,” he added.
“After a year of abortive negotiations and despite the tireless efforts of the Chairpersons of the African Union and our international partners, we find ourselves – again – confronted by the reality of the unilateral execution of the filling of the GERD without an agreement to protect downstream communities against the dangers of this dam,” the top Egyptian diplomat stated before the UN Security Council.
“This blatant act of unilateralism is not only a manifestation of Ethiopia’s irresponsibility and its callous indifference to the damage that the filling of this dam could inflict upon Egypt and Sudan but it also illustrates Ethiopia’s bad faith and its attempt to impose a fait accompli in defiance of the collective will of the international community as expressed and embodied in the holding of this Security Council session to discuss and take action on the question of the GERD,” he added.
According to Shourky’s statement, “the AU-led process, in its current format, has reached an impasse”.
“For us, the harm that the GERD might inflict will affect every aspect of the lives of the Egyptian people like a malignant plague,” Shoukry said. “In the absence of an agreement that regulates its filling and operation, the GERD can cause cumulative water shortages in Egypt amounting to 120 billion cubic meters,” he added.
“This is a situation that Egypt cannot, and will not, tolerate,” Shourky said. He added, “Otherwise, if its riparian rights are jeopardized or if its survival is imperiled, Egypt will be left with no alternative but to uphold and protect its inherent right to life that is guaranteed by the laws and customs of nations and the imperatives of nature”.
The top Egyptian diplomat commended the statement that the European Union issued Thursday to express worry over Ethiopia’s execution of the second filling of the reservoir of the GERD in the absence of an agreement among the three concerned riparian countries. He called on the members of the UN Security Council to issue a similar statement and to adopt a draft resolution that Tunis had tabled to call on the three countries to resume negotiations under the AU umbrella in good faith and with a plan to reach an agreement in a reasonable timeframe.
In his statement to the UN Security Council, the permanent representative of Tunisia said that the draft resolution his country tabled for consideration offer a reasonable framework to help the three countries conclude an agreement within a reasonable timeframe under the umbrella of the African Union.
For her part, the foreign minister of Sudan warned that if the UN Security Council was to remain silent on Ethiopia’s unilateralism, it would be effectively send a message to Addis Ababa to continue shrugging the concerns and rights of the downstream countries.
Addressing the UN Security Council, the top Sudanese diplomat said that Sudan had been hoping that Ethiopia will act in good faith to reach an agreement that could turn the GERD into an exemplary project of African cooperation. However, she lamented, this had not happened because Ethiopia had not been negotiating to reach a deal.
Al-Mahdi said that her country is willing to resume working with Egypt and Ethiopia within the framework of the AU-led negotiations. However, she said that these negotiations need a new modality to be effective. She argued the need for a bigger role for experts from the US and the EU and much more support from the UN Security Council.
“We hope that the UN Security Council will undertake its responsibility to preserve peace and security and would take the necessary actions of preemptive diplomacy in this respect,” the foreign minister of Sudan said.
If Ethiopia was to continue the construction, filling and operation of the GERD without a legal agreement that would allow Sudan to be in the know on the necessary technical details that could influence its water rights and water stations and dams, then the GERD would bring bad news for millions of the Sudanese people.
In his statement, the last, before the UN Security Council, Ethiopia’s Minister of Water Resources Seleshi Bekele showed no intention on the side of Addis Ababa to change its attitude on the GERD negotiations. Bekele declined to acknowledge any of the concerns that Egypt and Sudan had put forward on the possible devastating impact of the continued construction, filling and operation of the GERD without sufficient studies on the safety of the constructions of the dam, its possible ecological repercussions and its impact on the water security of the downstream countries.
Bekele declined any role of the UN Security in managing the dispute over the GERD. He also made no promises that Ethiopia would refrain from unilateralism pending the finalisation of an agreement under the AU-led negotiations.
All speakers who had addressed the UN Secuirty Council clearly called on the three countries to avoid all unilateral actions that could aggravate the dispute. Speakers argued that at the end it would be up to the three countries to find an agreement in light of the 2015 Declaration of Principles that Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia signed.
The 2015 DOP, according to both Egypt and Sudan, does not allow Ethiopia to conduct unilateral filling of the dam and requires the three countries to work towards a legal agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD. For its part, Ethiopia argues that the DOP allows it to execute the filling on the assumption that the filling is an essential part of the construction of the dam that had been approved by the two downstream countries.