Security Council situation on GERD complicated, Ethiopia’s argument weak: Egypt FM

Ahmed Morsy , Saturday 10 Jul 2021

That the council has held two consecutive sessions on the GERD issue is an achievement in itself, Shoukry said

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (AFP)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (AFP)

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry stated on Saturday that the situation within the United Nation Security Council is "complicated” due to political considerations, alignments and interlocking interests.

Shoukry was referring to the Security Council’s unwillingness to handle the Nile dam issue because these issues “are not of importance worthy of the council's handling.”

On Thursday, the UN body held a session on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which was held at the request of Egypt and Sudan, in an attempt to settle the dispute over the near-complete dam that Ethiopia has been building since 2011 on the Blue Nile.

In a phone-in interview with ONtv satellite channel late on Saturday, Shoukry pointed out that bringing the GERD issue to the Security Council was important in order to "hold it responsible as it is the major entity in the United Nations system concerned with maintaining peace and security."

Given that Thursday’s session on the GERD was the second following an earlier one held last year, Shoukry said such thing “is unprecedented” and should be considered an achievement for Egyptian diplomacy.

“That the Council for two consecutive years holds a public session to deal with this [GERD] matter in itself is an achievement,” Shoukry said on Saturday.

In earlier statements, Shoukry explained that the session came about because of efforts made by Egypt to convince member states of the seriousness of the situation and the importance of the council taking responsibility for the issue.

Regarding that failure of the Security Council member states – except for the French permanent representative – to mention Ethiopia’s unilateral filling of the GERD in their statements during the session, Shoukry stressed that Egypt would raise the issue with member states and register its "unease" with the omissions.

“We will express to the members of the Security Council our dissatisfaction with the refusal to condemn Ethiopia’s second filling of the GERD,” Shoukry stated.

Only three days before convening the council’s session, Ethiopia had already commenced its second-year filling of the GERD, which both downstream countries condemned, with Cairo describing it as a "blatant and dangerous" violation of international laws as well as the Declaration of Principles signed in 2015.

On the Ethiopian statement delivered by its Minister of Water, Irrigation, and Energy Seleshi Bekele, Shoukry said the Ethiopian argument during the session was weakcompared to the Egyptian and Sudanese, calling on them to alter their course.

"We encourage our brothers in Ethiopia to change their course, and we encourage the international community, including the Security Council, to send messages that reinforce that," the top Egyptian diplomat said.

Following Thursday’s session, Shoukry said Egypt would defend the rights of its citizens by all available means, stressing that the negotiations must take place within a specific time frame.

A week ago, Tunisia, the only Arab member of the 10 elected and non-permanent members of the UNSC, submitted an Egyptian-Sudanese GERD-focused draft resolution to the UN body which is due to be voted on during the coming days.

The draft resolution, which Ahram Online obtained a copy of, calls on "Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan to resume negotiations at the joint invitation of the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) 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 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."

Throughout the decade-long GERD negotiations, Ethiopia has been evading the legally binding deal that Egypt and Sudan are seeking on the filling and operation of the dam, and only seeks “guidelines” that can be modified any time at its discretion, and has opposed 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. 

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