July 8, 2021 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan and Egypt called on the United Nations Security Council to put the needed pressure on the Blue Nile’s upstream country to sign a binding agreement on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
Upon the request of the downstream countries, the Security Council discussed the dispute over the giant dam on Thursday with the participation of the Sudanese and Ethiopian foreign ministers and the Ethiopian Irrigation minister.
In their speech before the 15-member body, Mariam al-Mahdi and Sameh Shoukry sought to explain their efforts to negotiate with Ethiopia during the past 10 years to reach a deal on the GERD in the direct negotiations facilitated by the African Union.
They also blamed the Ethiopian government for its refusal to sign a legally binding agreement in line with the 2015 declaration of principles.
The Sudanese minister urged the Council to strengthen the negotiation process and request the three parties to resume negotiations under the umbrella of the African Union, with the participation of international observers and mediators who will help to conclude a binding agreement.
In addition, she requested the UN body to call on Ethiopia not to take unilateral steps that threaten millions of people in the downstream basin.
On 6 July, Ethiopia has already started the second filling of the GERD without reaching an agreement with Sudan and Egypt, a process that Sudanese authorities say represent a threat for 20 million of its people.
For his part, the Egyptian top diplomat said that the second unilateral filling demonstrates “Ethiopian arrogance”, citing a statement by the Ethiopian foreign saying his government thanks to the GERD turned the Blue Nile into a lake belonging to Ethiopia.
He added that by doing so, Ethiopia disregards international law and reveals its plans to transform the trans-border river into a tool for exercising political influence, which “threatens to undermine peace and security in the region”.
Sudan, in the past, supported the GERD for its positive effects, as it would allow the downstream country to benefit from the water of the Blue Nile.
However, Sudanese officials insist that Ethiopia refusal to sign a binding agreement becomes a source of concern particularly after the first filling, which had been done without prior consultations.
The Ethiopian Irrigation Minister Seleshi Bekele, for his part, told the meeting that the main purpose of the dam is to generate the electricity needed to achieve development, adding that the Blue Nile also remains the only source of water for his country.
Bekele, further, accused the downstream countries of opposing the GERD while they have other sources of water including ground-water reserve and seawater to desalinate.
“Nearly 70 per cent of my country’s water is in the Nile Basin. Even if we want to, even if we try, we cannot avoid utilizing the Nile River,” he said.
Sudan said ready to negotiate a water-sharing deal with Ethiopia once a binding agreement is reached over the filling and operation of the GERD.
The council is expected to vote on a resolution drafted by Jordan in response to the request made by Egypt and Sudan to establish an international mediation led by the African Union involving the United Nations besides other organisations and countries.