Arab League takes Egypt’s fight for continued monopoly over the Nile water to the United Nations Security Council, but it is framed as ‘a binding agreement’ before Ethiopia undertakes second filing of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
Members of the Arab League states called on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to intervene in the stalled Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiation.
A report by Aljazeera said the decision came ministerial meeting of Arab League countries in Qatar which was said to be initiated by Egypt and Sudan.
It is the Arab League Secretary-General, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, who announced the decision to take the matter to the UNSC.
The host country’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, said “There is a United Arab position,” and that “steps to be taken gradually,” as reported by Aljazeera.
Egypt has been attempting to take the matter to the United Nations Security Council, although unsuccessful, on its own before it mobilized the Arab League member states for similar action.
“African mediation on the Renaissance Dam began about a year ago, but unfortunately has not yielded the desired results,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said during the meeting.
Two of the United Nations permanent members, namely China and Russia, have supported the idea that the African Union is the right platform to handle negotiation over Ethiopia’s Mega Dam as the three parties to the dispute ( Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan) have representation in the continental organization.
The last round of the negotiation, which was held in the Democratic republic of Congo in early April 2021, failed as Sudan and Egypt proposed change in the role of the observers – United States, European Union and the United Nations. Those two lower riparian countries wanted the observers to have a mediator role at the level of African Union.
Sudan seems to have come to terms that Ethiopia’s move to undertake the second filling of GERD in the coming months of July and August, time for heavy rainfall in Ethiopia, is inevitable. On Monday, Irrigation Minister Minister Yasir Abbas remarked on Monday his country is “open to a partial interim agreement on Ethiopia’s multi-billion-dollar dam on the Blue Nile, with specific conditions,” as reported by Reuters. His remark suggests that Sudan is no longer holding to its view of “binding agreement” before second filling.
Ethiopia has issued a statement in reaction to the decision of Arab League. The statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia said “Ethiopia is dismayed by the “Resolution” of the Executive Council of the League of Arab States on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)”
Background to the GERD,Nile Dispute
Egypt had been enjoying a monopolistic privilege over the water of the Nile over 85 percent of which originates from Ethiopia. It was getting 55.5 billion cubic meters of water annually. Sudan was getting 18.5 billion cubic meters as per the bilateral agreement of 1959.
However, Ethiopia and the rest of Nile riparian countries were not parties to the agreement, the foundation of which was the colonial era agreement of 1929. British colonial power made the arrangement at a time.
Egypt claims “historical right” over the Nile on the basis of these colonial era agreements to which Ethiopia was not a party.
Ethiopia, a country over 65 percent of whose population is without access to electricity, embarked on poverty eradication policy for over decades now. Enhancing electric power supply for the manufacturing sector and to household level has been one of the key strategies for its fight against poverty.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project was started over ten years ago as a key strategy to enhance accessibility to electricity and power to the manufacturing sector.
The three countries have signed a declaration of principle agreement in 2015 to which Ethiopia is adhering to as it is undertaking the filling of the Dam.
Over 80 percent of the construction project is completed. Ethiopia hopes to start early power generation with two turbines once the second phase of filling is completed in the coming two months which will retain about 13.9 billion cubic meters of water.
Ethiopia reiterates commitment to an equitable use of the Nile water but it is not accepting Egyptian position about “historical right” over the Nile.