UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday encouraged Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to resume negotiations on the contentious issue of water availability from the dam that the Ethiopians are building on the main tributary of the Nile River.
A brief presidential statement approved by all 15 council members said negotiations should resume at the invitation of the African Union’s chairperson “to finalize expeditiously the text of mutually acceptable and binding agreement on the filling and operation of the (dam) within a reasonable time frame.”
“The Security Council calls upon the three countries to take forward the AU-led negotiation process in a constructive and cooperative manner,” it said.
The dam on the Blue Nile is 80% 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 make sure the vast majority of its people have electricity.
Egypt and Sudan have said 10 years of negotiations with Ethiopia have failed, and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is starting a second filling of its reservoir. They say this not only violates a 2015 agreement but poses “an existential threat” to 150 million people in their downstream nations.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the statement as a “significant push” to the stalled negotiations and urged Ethiopia to engage “seriously” in talks to achieve a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam.
Sudanese Foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi also called for resumption of the talks soon to reach “an agreement acceptable for the three parties.” She commented while welcoming a visit to Khartoum by Congolese Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula, whose nation chairs the African Union.
Ethiopia's foreign ministry said it “welcomes” the council directing the issue to the AU-led negotiations, but then added that it regrets the council "pronounces itself over an issue of water right and development that is outside of its mandate.”
In July, Egypt and Sudan sought a legally binding Security Council resolution that would require the three countries to negotiate a legally binding agreement within six months under AU auspices “that ensures Ethiopia’s ability to generate hydropower ... while preventing the inflicting of significant harm on the water security of downstream states.”
The council has not adopted such a resolution, instead approving this presidential statement.
The brief council statement encouraged observers that have been invited to attend negotiations and any other observers the three countries agree to jointly invite “to continue supporting the negotiations with a view to facilitating resolution of outstanding technical and legal issues.”
The council underscored that its statement “does not set out any principles or precedent in any other transboundary water disputes.”