Egypt’s Foreign Minister urged the UN Security Council on to adopt a resolution giving international clout to efforts to resolve a dispute over Ethiopia’s new hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile which he said endangers the lives of 150 million Egyptians and Sudanese.
Sameh Shoukry says the draft resolution is in line with the outcome of a Friday African Union summit where leaders of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia agreed to return to talks aimed at reaching an agreement over the filling of the $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, known by its initials GERD.
He noted “… this draft resolution is not intended to preempt or forestall any negotiations but to express at the highest levels of deep interests of the international community in reaching an agreement on the GERD and its appreciation of the dangers of acts of unilateralism in this matter.”
Shoukry said the proposed resolution encourages the three countries to reach an agreement within two weeks and not take any unilateral measures in relation to the dam, and it “emphasizes the important role of the UN secretary-general in this regard.”
Hours after the AU agreement was announced, the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s office said in a statement on Saturday that it is is set to beginning filling the dam in within the next two weeks and that construction will continue. It said this is in line with the agreement.
Egypt and Sudan had said Ethiopia would refrain from filling the dam next month until the countries reached a deal.
Both Egypt and Sudan appealed to the Security Council to intervene in the years-long dispute, which has seen bellicose rhetoric and escalating tensions, and to help the countries avert a crisis. Monday’s virtual council meeting was held in response.
The 15 members of the Security Council all expressed support for the AU action in reviving talks, but took no immediate action.
Egypt relies on the Nile for more than 90% of its water supplies and already faces high water stress, fearing a devastating impact on its booming population of 100 million. Sudan, which also depends on the Nile for water, has played a key role in bringing the two sides together after the collapse of U.S.-mediated talks in February.
Filling the dam without an agreement could bring the stand-off to a critical juncture. Both Egypt and Ethiopia have hinted at military steps to protect their interests, and experts fear a breakdown in talks could lead to open conflict.