Ethiopia claims victory over Security Council’s support for African mediation in Nile dam row
CAIRO – The results of the UN Security Council session on the Renaissance Dam crisis did not favour Egypt and Sudan, especially after the council returned examination of the dispute to the African Union without specifying a deadline as requested by Cairo and Khartoum. This outcome is considered by experts as being to the advantage of Ethiopia.
In a press conference in the capital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesperson Dina Mufti stressed, Friday, that the UN Security Council’s support for African mediation to resolve the dispute with Egypt and Sudan is a “major diplomatic victory for the country.”
Some in Egypt and Sudan sought to describe what happened in the UN Security Council session, Thursday evening, regarding the crisis of the Renaissance Dam, as achieving a political goal for the two countries while painting Ethiopia into a corner.
But the results of the session revealed that Egypt and Sudan have followed a flawed approach since they continued for years to blame Ethiopia alone for the row and used an emotional lexicon without adequate substance that was commensurate with the seriousness of the crisis.
Analysts noted that the Tunisian draft resolution that was presented to the UN Security Council was “weak” in certain respects, because it was prepared in haste and without sufficient coordination with the major powers. Moreover, it neglected to flesh out the essence of the Egyptian and Sudanese demand that sought an endorsement for an end to the second filling of the dam.
Winning support for this specific demand would have been sufficient to initiate negotiations.
The failure strengthened the Ethiopian position, which held on with full confidence to its rejection of all the demands that Cairo and Khartoum made, while Addis Ababa obtained a green-light to continue with the second filling as a fait accompli.
This result constitutes a win for Ethiopia as it clears the way for the continued filling and operating of the dam while effectively putting the negotiations back to the beginning.
Egypt has cornered itself, because it thought that just holding a UN Security Council session would be enough to pressure Ethiopia and press it to back down and sign a binding agreement, or threaten to use of force on the grounds that it had exhausted all other possible moves.
Observers point out that holding a Security Council session and listening to the positions of members who unequivocally rejected any recourse to armed action is likely to curb any future military temptations on the part of Egypt. Cairo has now heard the objections of major powers and knows well what to expect if it decides to walk the military path.
However, the Egyptian media celebrated their diplomats’ approach at the UN despite perceived setbacks. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in a long speech including a narration of developments in the crisis and emphasis on the flexibility of Cairo, said he presented a realistic portrayal of the dispute to the members of the Council. Nevertheless, Shoukry’s approach suggested that Cairo’s goal was to inform and not to generate some movement in the issue.
Ayman El-Sayed Abdel-Wahab, an expert on African affairs, said that Egypt achieved part of what it desired from the session, because it “informed the international public opinion about the nature of intransigent Ethiopian practices,” and about “Egypt’s keenness to communicate with international institutions.”
Abdel Wahab told The Arab Weekly that as long as there is no strong international pressure on Ethiopia to force it to end the stalemate in the talks, Cairo will have no option but to try to disrupt the current equation by endeavouring to shake the foreign alliances that back Ethiopia and target the interests of the countries in question in the region.
He explained that Cairo has no alternatives but to link the reaching a binding agreement to security threats in the region, in order to put pressure on the powers supporting Addis Ababa. Entering instead into new talks, even if they are agreed upon between the three countries, will not change anything on the ground. Ethiopia will be keen to continue the talks as long as possible without allowing Egypt and Sudan to reach a satisfactory outcome.
Egyptian sources said there is no other way but to return to the negotiating table. If Cairo takes unilateral military action, the consequences will be borne by Egypt alone, because Sudan supports the negotiated option and has never threatened to solve the crisis through military action.
The sources further told The Arab Weekly that Cairo is unlikely to choose a unilateral course of action after having spared no effort to develop cooperation and coordination ties with Sudan.