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Ethiopia rejects call by Egypt and Sudan for UN action on Nile dam

UN Security Council members back African Union mediation efforts between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan in a dispute over the operation of a giant hydropower dam on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia, urging the parties to resume talks.

Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia September 26, 2019. (Reuters)

Ethiopia has insisted that the dispute over the Nile dam can only be solved by the African Union after Egypt and Sudan urged the UN Security Council to undertake “preventive diplomacy” and called for a legally binding agreement to resolve the matter.

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Egypt and Sudan on Thursday called for the council meeting and sent their foreign ministers to New York to appeal for council action, saying 10 years of negotiations with Ethiopia have failed and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam or GERD is starting a second filling of its reservoir which not only violates a 2015 agreement but poses “an existential threat” to 150 million people in their downstream nations.

The dam on the Blue Nile is 80 percent complete and is expected to reach full generating capacity in 2023, making it Africa’s largest hydroelectric power plant and the world’s seventh-largest, according to reports in Ethiopia’s state media.

Ethiopia says the $5 billion dam is essential to promote economic development and make sure the vast majority of its people don’t lack electricity.

Tunisia proposes draft resolution

Tunisia proposed a draft Security Council resolution that would call for a binding agreement between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt on the operation of the giant dam within six months. It was not clear if or when it could be put to a vote.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry called on the Security Council to adopt the resolution.

“We do not expect the council to formulate solutions to the outstanding legal and technical issues, nor do we request that the council impose the terms of a settlement,” he said. “This resolution is political in nature and its purpose … is to re-launch negotiations.”

Sudan’s Foreign Minister Mariam Sadiq al Mahdi also urged the council to act by calling for a resumption of negotiations and on Ethiopia to abstain from any unilateral measures.

Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Seleshi Bekele Awulachew, said an agreement on the operation of the $5 billion dam is “within reach” and he described it as regrettable that Egypt and Sudan pushed for the Security Council meeting.

“We urge our Egyptian and Sudanese brothers and sisters to understand that the resolution to the Nile issue will not come from the Security Council. It can only come from good faith negotiations,” he told th e council.

Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia suggested the countries meet while in New York to try to resolve some issues.

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