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UN Supports AU Efforts to Settle Nile Dam Dispute

UN Supports AU Efforts to Settle Nile Dam Dispute

Wednesday, 1 July, 2020 - 10:30
Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction work on the Nile River in Guba Woreda, Ethiopia, Sept. 26, 2019.
Cairo - Mohammed Abdo Hassanein

The United Nations Security Council and Secretary General Antonio Guterres have expressed support for the African Union’s efforts to settle the dispute between Cairo, Khartoum and Addis Ababa over the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Nile River.

“The United States takes note of the recent efforts of the AU to facilitate additional discussions among the three countries on the GERD,” said US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft.

She said the US recognizes that this issue is before the Council because time is short and the window to achieving an agreement on the dam may be rapidly closing.

“We encourage all countries to build on their substantial progress in prior negotiations and the compromises that led to that progress,” she noted, urging all countries to refrain from making any statements or taking any actions that would undermine the goodwill necessary to achieve an agreement.

Ethiopia, whose GERD is worrying its downstream neighbors Egypt and Sudan, said it would fill the reservoir in a few weeks as planned, providing enough time for talks to be concluded.

The AU has been sponsoring the talks between the three African countries since Friday. Leaders said they were hopeful that the AU could help them broker a deal to end the decade-long dispute over water supplies within two or three weeks.

They agreed to form a committee of representatives of the three countries, South Africa, and technical personnel from the AU, to resolve outstanding legal and technical points. It would issue a report on progress of the negotiations in a week.

UN Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo underscored via videoconference that “transboundary water cooperation is a key element in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

DiCarlo commended the States involved for undertaking several “commendable initiatives over the past decade”, including the 2015 Declaration of Principles on the GERD, in which the three countries committed to “cooperation, equitable and reasonable utilization, security, and the peaceful settlement of disputes”.

“We firmly hope that Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan will persevere with efforts to achieve an agreement on the GERD that is beneficial to all,” she stressed.

Egypt said GERD poses a “threat of potentially existential proportions that could encroach on the single source of livelihood of over 100 million Egyptians.”

In his speech before the UN Security Council, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry affirmed that the “colossal project Ethiopia has constructed across the Blue Nile could endanger the security and very survival of an entire nation by imperiling its wellspring of sustenance.”

Although Egypt doesn’t oppose Ethiopia’s attempts to develop, yet Shoukry noted that his country “opposes the unilateral filling and operation of this dam, without an agreement that includes the necessary precautions to protect downstream communities and to prevent the infliction of significant harm on their riparian rights.”

He stressed that this step would heighten tensions and could provoke crises and conflicts that further destabilize an already troubled region.

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