File Photo: Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam. AFP
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is expected to issue a draft presidential statement soon urging Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan to resume negotiations in order to reach a satisfactory resolution to the long-running Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) dispute, diplomatic sources were cited as saying in various reports on Wednesday.
The draft statement is expected to be issued later on Wednesday or Thursday, a source in New York told Ahram Online.
A UNSC presidential statement is not legally-binding, although it is equal in tone to the council’s resolutions, which are only issued in the event of consensus among the UNSC’s 15 members and are considered binding.
Ireland chairs the UNSC for the month of September.
The anticipated presidential statement comes two months after the 15-member UNSC issued a draft resolution which called on Ethiopia to cease its second-year filling of the GERD’s reservoir.
Ethiopia slammed the July resolution as "inappropriate" and moved forward with the completion of the second filling of the reservoir two weeks later.
The two downstream countries had requested that the July session be held as part of their efforts to bolster the African Union-sponsored talks on the GERD – which have repeatedly collapsed – and convince Ethiopia to sign a legally-binding agreement on the filling and operation of the mega dam.
The anticipated UNSC draft presidential statement will not be a substitute for the July draft resolution, but will rather serve as a ceiling that the council members can now agree on, according to the source.
Sudanese diplomatic sources told Asharq News that the expected presidential statement will back trilateral negotiations under the auspices of the AU, a matter that the three countries have welcomed on many occasions, including in deliberations during the July session.
Egypt and Sudan, however, have proposed the formation of a quartet mediation committee led by the AU and including the European Union, the United States and the United Nations to help advance the talks, following the failure of the AU-sponsored talks in Kinshasa in April.
The Sudanese sources said negotiations are underway in the council to issue a statement on the GERD soon, the Riyadh-based news website reported.
The statement will call on the three countries to resume direct negotiations urgently to reach a legally-binding agreement on the GERD, the sources added.
Addis Ababa has repeatedly refused to sign such a deal, saying it seeks mere guidelines that can be modified at any time at its discretion.
The members of the UNSC, through the statement, will call on the three countries to reach an agreement on the filling and operation of the dam in an appropriate timeframe, Anadolu Agency cited diplomatic sources at the UN as saying.
A deal should also be reached in a way that protects “the interests of the [three] parties in a fair way," the sources added to the Turkish state-run news website.
According to the sources cited by Anadolu, the UNSC members have already made a draft statement on the GERD that will be issued later today.
The statement will call on the three countries to proceed with the AU-sponsored negotiations in a constructive and collaborative manner to facilitate the efforts to resolve outstanding technical and legal issues, Qatar’s Al-Jazeera cited diplomatic sources at the UNSC as saying.
In remarks to the media in June before the UNSC session, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said the country hopes that the UNSC’s reaction would contribute to Egypt and Sudan’s goal to reach a legally-binding agreement on the GERD.
This should be carried out through an African framework that is enhanced by observers and that allows the African Union and the UN secretary-general to use observers and available mechanisms to find solutions to the GERD crisis.
“The resolution is always the most powerful mechanism for the Security Council; the matter then wanes to a presidential statement then to a press statement. All of these propositions have the same effect,” Shoukry added.
Shoukry added that Egypt “will have exhausted all peaceful means” if Ethiopia does not abide by the UNSC position on the GERD issue.