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Renaissance Dam crisis ‘beyond the scope’ of UN Security Council

July 2, 2021 at 12:16 pm

A general view of the construction works at the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), near Guba in Ethiopia, on December 26, 2019 [EDUARDO SOTERAS/AFP via Getty Images]

The UN Security Council revealed on Thursday that it will not be able to resolve the dispute between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over the Renaissance Dam on the River Nile because the issue is “beyond the scope” of the international body. The claim has shocked both Egypt and Sudan.

Although the council is to discuss the issue, explained French ambassador to the UN Nicolas de Rivière — France has the rotating presidency of the council for July — it will not be able to resolve the problem relating to the second filling of the reservoir behind the dam.

“This issue is between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, and these three countries should discuss and reach logistical arrangements regarding cooperation and participation in the water quotas,” said de Rivière. “Honestly, I do not think the Security Council has the logistical expertise to decide how much water should go to Egypt or Sudan… This issue is beyond the scope and capacity of the Security Council.”

He suggested that the council can invite the three countries to express their concerns, “some of which” are legitimate. “Then the Security Council will encourage the parties to come back to the negotiation table to reach a solution… I do not think there is anything more the Security Council can do.”

Ethiopia insists on a second filling of the reservoir this month and in August, even if it does not reach an agreement with the downstream countries. It has confirmed that this is not intended to harm Egypt and Sudan, but is meant to generate electricity for development purposes.

READ: Ethiopia rejects Sudan’s request to take Nile Dam issue to UN

Egypt is insisting on a tripartite agreement on filling and operating the dam first, in order to ensure the continued flow of its annual share of Nile water. Sudan, however, has expressed its “conditional” willingness to accept a “partial agreement” proposed by Ethiopia on the second filling of the reservoir.

The government in Cairo has warned the UN Security Council of “international friction” if the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam issue continues to be stalled. “After ten years of negotiations, the issue has evolved to cause international friction,” the foreign ministry said in a letter dated 25 June. “This could endanger international peace and security. Hence, Egypt chose to submit this issue to the UN Security Council.”

The ministry stressed the need to hold an urgent Security Council session under ‘Peace and Security in Africa’ and noted that, “The situation constitutes an imminent threat to international peace and security, and requires immediate consideration.” It called upon the UN to consider “appropriate measures to ensure that the crisis is resolved fairly and in a manner that protects and maintains security and stability in an already fragile region, and to take appropriate steps to do so.”

Egypt and Sudan, the ministry pointed out, have no independently verified guarantees regarding the safety of the huge dam and its structural stability. “This raises concerns in Sudan about the Roseires Dam and in Egypt about the safety of the Aswan High Dam.”