Int’l community will not accept threats to instability among Nile riparian states: Arab League chief on GERD

Amr Kandil , Monday 21 Jun 2021

Abul-Gheit warned that the unilateral acts of Ethiopia will have a direct impact on Sudan, a matter that the Arab League and the international community will not accept

Ahmed Abul-Gheit
File Photo: Arab League chief Ahmed Abul-Gheit. Al-Ahram

The international community will not accept any threats to the stability of the Horn of Africa or to the relations between River Nile riparian countries, said Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Abul-Gheit on Sunday as he tackled the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) dispute.

Abul-Gheit’s remarks came as Ethiopia is planning to go ahead with the second filling of the GERD's reservoir next month, despite Egyptian and Sudanese objections to the move before a legally-binding agreement is reached between the three countries on the filling and operation of the dam.
Egypt and Sudan have noted that all options are open to preserve their water rights, triggering the international community’s concerns of a probable confrontation in the region.
The two countries also called on the European Union, the United States and the United Nations to intervene to mediate the GERD talks.
Rounds of African Union-sponsored talks to resolve Ethiopia’s GERD dispute with Egypt and Sudan have failed to reach the binding deal requested by Egypt and Sudan. The two downstream countries have blamed the failure of the AU talks on Ethiopia’s intransigence.
'Death threat’
In case a deal is not reached and Ethiopia continues its intransigence, “there will be a new dangerous situation that will surely have consequences,” Abul-Gheit said in an interview with Sada El-Balad.
“I wish that wisdom, calm, non-intransigence and the mutual interest of the three parties prevail,” Abul-Gheit said, warning that “the alternative will be highly dangerous.”
Abul-Gheit warned that the unilateral acts of Ethiopia will have a direct impact on Sudan, a matter that the Arab League and the international community will not accept.
The Arab League chief said Sudan has critical concerns about the impact of the GERD filling on its water reservoirs and lakes, affirming that Ethiopia has to take into consideration these concerns.
He stressed that Ethiopia is legally committed to respect the rights of the riparian countries by refraining from any procedures that may harm the downstream countries.
Abul-Gheit noted that the two downstream countries are the ones that decide whether harm could be caused by the GERD filling.
“You (Ethiopia) are threatening peoples with death. They can react in a way that is not in favour of peace and stability,” Abul-Gheit warned.
Sudan earlier warned that GERD will put the operation of its Roseires dam and the lives of 20 million Sudanese citizens at “a very high risk” if an agreement regulating the operation and filling of GERD is not reached before the second filling.
“You (Ethiopia) cannot kill the Sudanese people under the pretext of achieving development,” Abul-Gheit said.
International mediation 
Abul-Gheit affirmed the need to involve international parties in the GERD negotiations to resolve the dispute.
Abul-Gheit stressed more efforts are needed from the African Union in addition to the intervention of the EU, the US and the UN.
“Patience, determination, negotiations, and expanding the framework of pressures will achieve the goal,” he added.
This comes a day after US Central Command (CENTCOM) General Kenneth McKenzie commented in an interview with Egypt’s Nile News TV channel on the GERD dispute.
McKenzie said Egypt is exercising enormous statesmanlike restraint in its pursuit to find a solution to the GERD issue.
“The GERD is very concerning to us. We recognise the unique importance of the Nile to Egypt, not only culturally but also for water supply and for the general economy,” McKenzie said.
Abul-Gheit said McKenzie’s statements “surely represent a clear message to Ethiopia."
“This is a clear American message that the Americans will act at some point when required,” Abul-Gheit added.
Doha and UNSC
Abul-Gheit’s remarks came a week after the Arab League foreign ministers met in the Qatari capital of Doha, with a focus on the GERD conflict.
The ministers agreed during the emergency meeting on taking “gradual” steps to support Egypt and Sudan in the dispute, a resolution that the Ethiopian foreign ministry rejected in its entirety.
Abul-Gheit said in the interview on Sunday that the resolution was agreed upon by all the Arab states in the meeting, without any reservation by any country.
The Arab League chief shed light on two “interesting” points that took place during the emergency meeting, including considering the water security of Egypt and Sudan as an issue of national Arab security.
The second point was that the Arab League requested that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) hold a session to discuss the GERD dispute.
Egypt and Sudan earlier this year sent separate letters to the 15-member body, calling for dissuading Ethiopia from proceeding with filling its Blue Nile dam without reaching a legal deal.
Abul-Gheit said the Arab League also formed a committee in New York that includes Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq and the League’s delegate, Maged Abdel-Fattah, to coordinate the Arab position on GERD before the UNSC.
“The Security Council is concerned with international peace and security and does not abandon this responsibility,” Abul-Gheit said.
He said he expects the UNSC to tackle this issue to prevent the dispute from being developed into a confrontation.
Abul-Gheit said the Arab League is aware of an Ethiopian attempt to “claim the existence of an Arab-African clash” on GERD, noting that Ethiopia aims, through such claim, to gather African support.
He affirmed that this claim is void, affirming that nine of the 22 member countries in the Arab League are African, including Egypt and Sudan that introduced the GERD issue to the League.
Abul-Gheit affirmed that the Arab League will support Egypt and Sudan and will not stand idly by while international law is being violated.
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