File photo: Water flows through GERD as it undergoes construction work. REUTERS
Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said the United Nations Security Council's (UNSC) planned second session on Ethiopia's controversial Nile dam is "unprecedented" and comes in light of the efforts made by Egypt to convince its member states of the seriousness of the situation and the importance of the council carrying out its responsibilities.
The UNSC is due to meet on Thursday upon request by Egypt and Sudan in an attempt to settle the dispute over the near-complete Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which Ethiopia has been building since 2011 on the Blue Nile.
In preparation for the session, Shoukry headed on Sunday morning to the United States, where he is scheduled to hold a series of intensive meetings with a number of his counterparts, permanent delegates of the UNSC's member states, and the UN officials, a statement by the ministry said.
Shoukry is going to highlight 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, the foreign ministry’s spokesman Ahmed Hafez said in the statement.
In a phone interview with Al-Kahera Wal Nas TV channel on Saturday night, Shoukry said it was necessary to push for a second UNSC session after 10 years of negotiations have stumbled.
Ethiopia intends this month to commence its unilateral second filling of the GERD, with both downstream countries rejecting such one-sided move, describing it to be “a clear violation of international law” and “threatens regional security and peace.”
We, Shoukry said, will place 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.
He hoped for the UNSC to show a specific stance that in return would enhance the chances of reaching an agreement on GERD that would meet the aspirations of the three parties, noting that this matter "is being discussed with members in intensive consultations to determine the framework of this outcome and what it aims for".
Egypt and Sudan have repeatedly declared that "Ethiopian intransigence" was behind the failure of the African Union (AU)-sponsored GERD talks that have been initiated since last summer and stalled in April.
On recent statements by French UN Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere that that the UNSC can only bring the parties together and encourage them to return to negotiations to reach a solution, Shoukry said such remarks "did not take into account full coordination with France."
Egypt, he stressed, has always been striving to negotiate and reach a legally binding agreement, and the UNSC is the body that expresses the will of the international community and is responsible for following up on issues and outcomes.
In earlier statements, Egypt's Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel-Ati said throughout the decade-long negotiations Egypt proposed 15 scenarios, which guaranteed the GERD would continue to generate at least 80 per cent of Ethiopia’s electricity output even during the worst droughts, but Addis Ababa rejected them all.
From one side, Ethiopia evades 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, and opposes any international mediation proposed by the two downstream countries to facilitate negotiations and bring the views closer.
Egypt, 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 billion cubic metres (bcm) annually – mainly from the River Nile – though its needs is 114 bcm.
The country, which relies on the world-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.
Sudan has said that the unilateral filling of GERD would threaten the lives of millions of its people living downstream the dam, jeopardize the operational safety of its dams, and consequently risk Sudan's national security.