Everything you need to know on GERD crisis ahead of UN security council meeting

Abdelaziz Abouelkhair, Wednesday 7 Jul 2021

The UN security council is convening on Thursday to discuss the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam as prompted by Egypt and Sudan. Below is everything you need to know about the situation


The UN Security Council is convening on Thursday to discuss the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) as prompted by Egypt and Sudan. Below is everything you need to know about the situation.

Why is the UN Security Council meeting?

In a move that has been called “disturbing and alarming” by Egyptian and Sudanese officials, Ethiopia has begun the second filling of the GERD.

Ethiopia’s reiteration that it would complete the dam filling in the rainy season despite the lack of a binding agreement with Egypt and Sudan on the filling and operation of the dam prompted Egypt and Sudan to request the second UNSC meeting in two years. The UNSC decision to hold the second session, according to the foreign ministry, is a testament of the depth of the political relations between Egypt and the UNSC.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry arrived in New York on Sunday to gather support for a draft resolution that takes into account the interests of all parties involved; meeting with the five permanent member states of the UNSC (US, Britain, China, Russia, and France) on Tuesday to confirm Egypt’s stance on the issue.

The talks between the three parties had been mediated unsuccessfully in the past by the US and the World bank, followed by the African union with the World Bank and the US acting as observers. 

Now the matter is being escalated to the UNSC in order to gather support from UNSC member states for Egypt and Sudan’s stance. 

How far along is the dam’s construction?

The construction of the dam is stalling as Ethiopia struggles to pay the construction companies to finish the dam, according to an informed Egyptian official.

Ethiopia’s original plans for the dam envisioned a filling of the dam to 14 billion cubic meters of water; yet delays in the dam construction mean that the dam is unlikely to store more than nine billion cubic meters of water.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is trying to get the first two turbines of the dam to work as soon as possible to deliver electricity to the Ethiopian people in an attempt to rally support in light of the recent civil conflict in the country.

What is Egypt and Sudan’s stance on the issue?

Egypt and Sudan oppose the unilateral filling of the dam as a move that is likely to compromise their water rights and have requested the UNSC meeting to discuss reaching a binding agreement between the three parties to the chagrin of the Ethiopian government which denounced the interference of the UNSC.

What is the stance of Arab nations at the UNSC?

Tunisia, which is the only Arab member of the UNSC, expressed its full support for Egypt and Sudan in their attempts to secure a legally binding agreement on the dam.

Why has the situation escalated to the UNSC?

The UNSC meeting comes after one year of unproductive negotiations mediated by the African Union due to Ethiopia’s obstinance and their insistence that a legally binding agreement is unnecessary.

What is the importance of the UNSC meeting?

In a phone interview with El-Kahera Wal Nas TV channel, FM Shoukry highlighted the importance of the UNSC meeting after the failure of 10 years of negotiations.

“We will place the responsibility on the UNSC and the international community because the GERD issue threatens international peace, security, and stability, and the UNSC has to rectify this and work to contain any possible escalation,” Shoukry said.

What is the outcome that Egypt and Sudan are aiming for?

Shoukry called on the UNSC to take a stance in the situation in order to increase the chances of reaching an agreement that satisfies all parties involved.

Shoukry maintained that the matter “is being discussed with members in intensive consultations to determine the framework of this outcome and what it aims for.” 

What is the solution proposed to the UNSC?

Diplomatic sources confirmed on Tuesday that Tunisia has submitted a draft resolution to the UNSC calling to cease the filling of the mega-dam.

The draft resolution, obtained by AFP, calls on “Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan to resume negotiations at the joint invitation of the Chairperson of the African Union and the secretary-general of the United Nations to finalise, within a period of six months, the text of a binding agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD.” 

The resolution also maintains that the agreement should ensure Ethiopia’s ability to generate hydropower without inflicting significant harm on the water security of downstream states.

The draft also urged the three countries to refrain from making any statements or taking any actions that may jeopardise the negotiation process.

When is the Draft going to be put to a vote?

The draft is expected to be put to a vote at the UNSC in Thursday’s meeting; yet it could be pushed back till next week to give Egypt and Sudan a chance to explain the situation and secure the votes of the UNSC to pass the draft resolution without amending it.

Where can the situation go from here?

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi stated on Saturday evening that negotiations over the dam “cannot go on forever”, reaffirming Shoukry’s statement that “all options are on the table”.

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