A dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the filling and operation of the $4 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) escalated on Monday.
Cairo threatened “an open and clear procedure,” in case the UN Security Council fails to return Ethiopia to the negotiating table.
Ethiopia, for its part, began filling the dam reservoir unilaterally.
Addis Ababa stressed that “no internal or external force can prevent it from moving on with the filling process early July.”
Egypt referred the issue to the UN Security Council after Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan failed again last week to reach an agreement on the rules for filling and operating the dam.
Ethiopia insists on filling the dam reservoir as a first stage in July, with about five billion cubic meters, without regard to Egypt and Sudan’s objections.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry challenged on Monday Ethiopia to “resume negotiations immediately since it declared abiding by its international obligations not to fill it unilaterally.”
Ethiopian Foreign Minister, for his part, accused Egypt of escaping from negotiations and resorting to the Security Council.
Shoukry affirmed his country has been engaged, in a spirit of good faith, for almost a decade, in innumerable rounds of negotiations on GERD to meet all parties’ interests.
Ethiopia refused to sign a final agreement on the rules of filling and operating the dam earlier this year, under the auspice of the US Treasury and the World Bank.
“The UN Security Council shall shoulder its responsibility to prevent any harm to international peace and security by preventing Ethiopia from taking any unilateral action that negatively affects Egypt’s water rights,” he stressed in a statement.
The FM warned that filling the reservoir without an accord would violate the 2015 declaration of principles governing their talks — and rule out a return to negotiations.
Shoukry affirmed that the Egyptian government has not threatened military action, has sought a political solution and has worked to convince the Egyptian public that Ethiopia has a right to build the dam to meet its development goals.
“Egypt has never, never over the past six years even made an indirect reference to such possibilities.”
Yet, he further noted that if the Security Council fails to bring Ethiopia back into negotiations and the filling begins, Egypt “will find itself in a situation it has to deal with.”
“When that time comes, we will be very vocal and clear in what action we will take,” he stressed.
Starting to fill the reservoir now, he said, would demonstrate “a desire to control the flow of the water and have effective sole determination” of the water that reaches Egypt and Sudan.
He called on the US and other Security Council members, as well as African nations, to help reach a deal that “takes into account the interests of all three countries.”