Egyptian foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry and his Sudanese counterpart Mariam al-Sadiq in New York. Egyptian foreign ministry Twitter account
Egypt and Sudan’s foreign ministers held a second meeting in New York on Wednesday evening as part of the two countries’ coordination in preparation for the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) session on the dispute caused by the dam Ethiopia is building on a main tributary of the River Nile.
Egypt’s Sameh Shoukry and Sudan’s Mariam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi met to follow up on preparations for the UNSC session on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a statement by the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs read.
The meeting, which comes hours before the UNSC’s second session on the dispute in two years, is in line with the “close and continued coordination between Egypt and Sudan in the decade-long row,” the statement added.
Both downstream countries see eye to eye on the importance of securing a legal deal guaranteeing binding rules for filling and operating the Ethiopian dam in a manner that does not cause significant harm to the Egyptian and Sudanese peoples, who rely on the Nile as the main source of fresh water.
Throughout the decade-long negotiations, Ethiopia has been evading the legally binding deal and only seeking “guidelines” that can be modified at any time at its discretion.
Tripartite negotiations faltered earlier this year after Ethiopia refused to include other mediators in the talks, as Egypt and Sudan requested, to help the African Union (AU), the current mediator, with securing the long-awaited deal.
Tension further escalated as Addis Ababa has been adamant about proceeding with the filing of the reservoir of its near-complete dam unilaterally for the second year despite the absence of a deal with Cairo and Khartoum that regulates the process.
Tunisia, the only Arab member of the 15-member body, submitted last Friday an Egyptian-Sudanese GERD-focused draft resolution to the UN body, calling on the three nations to resume negotiations at the joint invitation of the chairperson of the AU and the secretary-general of UN to finalise the text of a binding agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD by January 2022.
The resolution stresses that the agreement should “ensure Ethiopia’s ability to generate hydropower from the GERD while preventing the inflicting of significant harm on the water security of downstream states.”
It also urges the “three countries to refrain from making any statements or taking any action that may jeopardise the negotiation process and urges Ethiopia to refrain from continuing to unilaterally fill the GERD reservoir.”
Egypt, which relies on the Nile River for more than 95 percent of its renewable water resources, fears the unilateral filling and operation of the massive dam will significantly diminish its water supply, which at 560 cubic metres per person annually, is already well below the international threshold for water scarcity.
The country, 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 bcm annually — the majority of which flows from the River Nile — though its needs stand at 114 bcm.
Sudan said the unilateral filling of the GERD would threaten the lives of millions of its people living downstream of the dam, jeopardise the operational safety of its dams, and consequently risk Sudan’s national security.