UN Security Council to meet on Nile dam dispute but doubts persist

Arab states last month called on the 15-member council to meet to discuss the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and Ethiopia’s plans to fill the dam for a second time this summer without an agreement with Sudan and Egypt.
Friday 02/07/2021
A file picture shows members of the UN Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York. (AFP)
A file picture shows members of the UN Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York. (AFP)

UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations Security Council will likely meet next week to discuss a dispute between Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt over a giant dam built by Ethiopia on the Blue Nile, French UN Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere said on Thursday.

Arab states last month called on the 15-member council to meet to discuss the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and Ethiopia’s plans to fill the dam for a second time this summer without an agreement with Sudan and Egypt.

Ethiopia is not keen on Security Council involvement and instead asked the body to defer the issue to the African Union. Ethiopia previously rejected calls from Egypt and Sudan to involve mediators outside the African Union.

De Riviere, council president for July, pointed out that there was little the Security Council could do other than bring the parties together to express their concerns and then encourage them to return to negotiations to reach a solution.

“I don’t think the council can do much more than that,” he told reporters.

Ethiopia is pinning its hopes of economic development and power generation on the dam, while the two downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan, are concerned about it and seeking a binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam.

Egypt relies on the Nile River for as much as 90% of its fresh water and sees the dam as an existential threat. Sudan is concerned about the operation of its own Nile dams and water stations.

Earlier this month, Sudan rejected an Ethiopian proposal to manage the filling for a second time of the giant dam, a senior official said, deepening a regional dispute over the project.

A senior Sudanese official said the Ethiopian proposal for the second filling was “not real” and “a way to buy time,” adding that any such proposal should come under the auspices of AU mediators and involve all parties.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official also said that Ethiopia had put forward “impossible conditions” related to the division of the share of the water, which Sudan considers outside the scope of negotiations.

Addis Ababa has said it will again fill the reservoir behind the multi-billion dollar hydropower dam after seasonal rains start this summer.