Egypt-Sudan move at UNSC over GERD should not turn into Arab-African dispute: Arab League ambassador

Menna Alaa El-Din , Thursday 1 Jul 2021

There has been a change in the composition of the membership of the UNSC, which could affect support for the Egyptian-Sudanese action, the AL ambassador said

Maged Abdel-Fattah
File Photo: Ambassador Maged Abdel-Fattah, the Arab League representative to the UN during 8th Global Forum meeting at UNHQ. Photo courtesy of UNAOC tweeter account

The Arab League is keen on ensuring that Egypt and Sudan resorting to the UN Security Council over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) issue does not turn into a dispute between Arab and African sides, its ambassador to the UN said.

Ambassador Maged Abdel-Fattah, the Arab League representative to the UN, told privately owned satellite channel Sada Al-Balad that a five-member committee formed by the Arab League has requested meetings with the president of the UNSC and its permanent members.

The committee has also called for a meeting with the Ethiopian representative in New York.

The Arab League has also backed an intervention by the UNSC, stressing during a meeting in Doha in June its rejection of any measures that would undermine the water share of Egypt and Sudan.

Ethiopia has slammed the AL resolution, describing the organisation’s approach as “unhelpful and misguided.”

Changes at the UNSC

There has been a change in the composition of the membership of the UNSC, Abdel-Fattah said, explaining how this change could affect support for the Egyptian-Sudanese action.

According to Abdel-Fattah, Ireland and Norway, which replaced Germany and Belgium, could have more understanding towards the Egyptian and Sudanese position on the dam. 

Kenya, which has replaced South Africa, could show less sympathy towards Ethiopia, he said, adding that South Africa, which presided over the AU-backed talks on the GERD as the president of the AU in 2020, has shown great sympathy with Ethiopia. 

Abdel-Fattah said Kenya continues to cooperate with Ethiopia despite its conflict with Addis Ababa over the Omo River, on which there are several dams built by Ethiopia.

Niger will also have some sensitivity in dealing with the GERD issue given the existing issues it has over the Niger River with Benin and Mali.

The Arab League representative said there has been a state of indecision in the UNSC regarding issues related to water and rivers, as well as development issues, migration and climate change.

There are ongoing efforts to secure nine votes inside the UNSC for a resolution backing the rights of Egypt and Sudan, Abdel-Fattah said.

Ethiopia remains adamant on proceeding with a second filling of its dam’s reservoir in July despite the lack of an accord with downstream countries. 

In a letter to the UNSC in June, Egypt denounced Addis Ababa's plan to unilaterally move ahead with the second filling of the dam in July, a step that is expected to affect the water security of downstream countries.

The 95-page letter included an overview of the decade-old negotiations between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, as well as how the latest round, which was held under the brokerage of the African Union (AU), faltered due to Addis Ababa's intransigence.

Egypt and Sudan have been negotiating for almost a decade now with Ethiopia to reach a legally binding and comprehensive deal on the GERD’s construction, which Addis Ababa started to build on the Blue Nile in 2011.

Ethiopia’s rejection of several proposals by Egypt and Sudan on the negotiation mechanism, which includes international quartet mediation, has led to the collapse of the Kinshasa talks sponsored by the AU in April.

Egypt’s 100 million-plus population depends on the Nile for over 95 percent of its fresh water.

Sudan fears the 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.

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