Members of the United Nations Security Council backed African Union mediation efforts in a dispute between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan over the operation of a massive hydropower dam on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia on Thursday, urging the parties to resume discussions.
After Ethiopia began filling the reservoir behind its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) for the second year earlier this week, Egypt and Sudan both called on the United Nations Security Council to assist in resolving the dispute. Ethiopia opposes any engagement of the Security Council.
According to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, “A balanced and equitable solution to the filling and operation of the GERD can be reached with political commitment from all parties”. The restart of fruitful substantive negotiations is the first step. Those talks should take place under the African Union’s leadership and should resume as soon as possible. The African Union “is the most appropriate platform to address this conflict,” according to the African Union.
Many council ambassadors were hesitant to involve the body in the dispute – beyond hosting a meeting on Thursday – for fear of setting a precedent that would allow other countries to seek Security Council assistance with water conflicts.
Ethiopia claims that the dam is essential for its economic development and power generation. Egypt, on the other hand, sees it as a serious threat to its Nile water supply, which it relies on nearly exclusively. Sudan, which is also downstream, is concerned about the dam’s stability and the impact it will have on its own dams and water stations.
Tunisia has offered a draught Security Council resolution calling for Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt to reach a binding agreement on the dam’s operation within six months. It was unclear whether or not it would be put to a vote, and if so, when.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, has urged the UN Security Council to pass the resolution.
Sudan’s Foreign Minister, Mariam Sadiq al-Mahdi, also urged the council to intervene by calling for the restart of talks and for Ethiopia to refrain from taking unilateral action.
Seleshi Bekele Awulachew, Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation, and Energy, claimed a deal on the $5 billion dam’s operation is “within reach,” and that Egypt and Sudan pushed for the Security Council meeting.
Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s UN Ambassador, requested the two countries meet in New York to try to resolve some difficulties.
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