UN secretary remark about Grand Renaissance Dam favours Ethiopia’s position
May 20, 2020
On May 19, 2020, the spokesperson of the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, issued a statement regarding Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
It noted that the Secretary General is closely following developments in connection with GERD.
“He notes the good progress in the negotiations between the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Republic of Sudan thus far and encourages the three parties to persevere with efforts to peacefully resolve any remaining differences and to achieve a mutually beneficial agreement,” said the statement from the spokesperson.
Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan have been “negotiating” for months in Washington DC with the arrangement that the United States and the World Bank took part as “observers,” and facilitators. The negotiation was over the filling and operation of the dam. Egyptians wanted Ethiopia to agree to filling arrangements which could take up to 21 years and also wanted to have an office in Ethiopia to monitor the Dam.
While maintaining a commitment to cause significant harm to lower riparian countries while filling and operating, and adhering to the principles of equitable use of the water, Ethiopia disagreed with Egyptian proposal on grounds that it infringes on Ethiopia’s sovereignty.
Another key point of disagreement was that Egypt wanted to negotiate the entire Nile water while Ethiopia stood on firm grounds that discussion of the Nile water should involve all Nile riparian countries and that it could only negotiate GERD.
In late February 2020, Ethiopia announced that it could not make it to the last round of the “negotiation” as it was preoccupied with national consultation at home.
After the last Washington Meeting, the United States issued a statement that Ethiopia should not fill the dam without reaching an agreement to which Ethiopia expressed disappointment.
With 73 percent of the GERD project completed, as confirmed by Seleshi Bekele – the Irrigation, Water, and Energy Minister earlier this month – Ethiopia announced that it intends to launch the first phase of filling the dam to hold 4.9 billion cubic meters of water.`
Egypt took the matter to the Security Council of the United Nations. On May 11, Egypt submitted what is said to be 17 pages of protest letter to the United Nations Security Council.
Ethiopia has submitted its response to the Security Council, through its Ambassador at the UN – Taye Atske Selassie, saying that Ethiopia has no international legal obligation to get Egypt’s approval first before filling the dam. Ethiopia has also expressed commitment to negotiation.
António Guterres places importance, as stated by his spokesperson, on the 2015 Declaration of Principles which was signed by Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt. The spokesperson noted that the declaration “emphasizes cooperation based on common understanding, mutual benefit, good faith, win-win, and the principles of international law.”
And that is where some Ethiopians, with expertise in international law, seem to see merit in the secretary general’s view. Ethiopia has been calling for Africa based solution for the problem while Egypt wants the involvement of the US. And as it turns out, the United States manifested sentiments of supporting Egyptian position.
Ethiopia believes that it is not violating any international law and that it firmly believes in mutual benefit.
The exchanges between Ethiopia and Egypt have been escalating in recent weeks. Commanders in the Ethiopian Defense Force have been featured on the national TV saying that Ethiopia is ready to defend any possible attack against the dam. They also talked about possible retaliation.
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