The United Nation Security Council (UNSC) has started a closed-door consultation session at the expert level on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam's (GERD) dispute between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, only a few hours before the UN body members convene to discuss the issue later on the day, sources in New York told Ahram Online.
Ahead of the consultations session, which is set to last till 7pm Cairo local time, the member state of the UN body had submitted their notes concerning the Egyptian-Sudanese GERD-focused draft resolution that was submitted by Tunisia to the international body on Friday.
An amended draft resolution will be prepared by the end of the experts' consultations to be distributed on Thursday night prior to the UNSC session, which is slated for 9pm Cairo local time or on Friday morning at most, the sources added.
Another consultation session, the sources noted, is set to be held on Monday on the final draft resolution before it is put to vote between 14-16 July.
The sources added that the voting will take place at the request of the concerned parties after setting the date of the session in accordance with the rules followed by the UN Security Council.
Putting off the votes nearly a week after the UNSC session will give Egypt and Sudan a chance to further explain the situation and secure the needed votes of the international body's member states to pass the draft resolution, sources told Ahram online on Wednesday.
"A ministerial meeting on Libya will be held in New York on 14 July. Therefore, it is better to push the vote on GERD back to 15-16 July to have the opportunity to meet the foreign ministers of the Security Council member states in-person to further explain the issue and achieve a comprehensive understanding," the sources explained.
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.
Tunisia, the only Arab member of the 10 elected and non-permanent members of the UNSC, submitted a draft resolution calling on the three parties involved to resume negotiations to reach a binding agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD by January 2022.
The negotiations, according to the draft, should be held at the joint invitation of the Chairperson of the African Union (AU)and the Secretary-General of the United Nations
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."
Ethiopia has already commenced filling the GERD for the second year without reaching a deal with Egypt and Sudan, a step that angered the two downstream countries.
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.
Egypt, which relies on the world's 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.
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 flow from the River Nile – though its needs stand at 114 bcm.
Sudan said the unilateral filling of 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.