Security Council Calls for Dialogue to Solve "Renaissance Dam" Crisis
The majority of United Nations Security Council members refuse unilateral decisions on Renaissance Dam, and Russia calls for negotiations to reach a unified position to deal with the crisis.
The majority of UNSC members expressed their refusal of the unilateral steps adopted by the Nile Basin States, calling on Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan to return to the negotiation table under the sponsorship of the African Union.
This position, which warned against the use of force, or the threat thereof, was adopted by the majority of the permanent UNSC countries, while Russia suggested bringing the ministers and representatives of the countries in question together in New York to enter into negotiations in order to reach a unified position to resolve the Renaissance Dam crisis.
In their speeches at the UNSC session on Thursday, the representatives of the SC member states urged the three countries to overcome their differences and reach an agreement sponsored by the African Union.
This UNSC session was held as per the request of Egypt and Sudan to look into Ethiopia's dam crisis, while Addis Ababa considers that is it not within the Security Council's jurisdictions to look into the matter, accusing the downstream states of attempting to deprive it of its right to benefit from the Nile.
UN: A Settlement Can Be Reached on Renaissance Dam
On its part, the UN stressed the possibility of reaching an agreement through mutual trust between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan on the Renaissance Dam Addis Ababa is building on the Nile. Meanwhile, Egypt has accused Ethiopia of threatening its very existence.
Executive Director of the UN Environment Program Inger Anderson stressed during the SC session Tunisia had requested on behalf of Cairo and Khartoum that "a deal can be reached on the Renaissance Dam."
Cairo and Khartoum delegated their Foreign Ministers to partake in the SC session, whereas Addis Ababa delegated its Water and Irrigation Minister.
Anderson discussed the "basics" for future "cooperation" among the three countries, pointing out that "to reach an optimal agreement, trust, transparency, and open engagement will be key."
The UN Environment Chief also said: "While progress has been made in many areas of the negotiations, a consensus has not been reached regarding some critical aspects, including arrangements for the management of protracted drought" and "reaching a dispute resolution mechanism."
Egypt: The Dam Is an Existential Threat
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri considered the Dam "an existential threat" for Egypt, demanding a "legally binding agreement" for Ethiopia regarding the Dam.
Shukri said that the negotiations led by the African Union have reached a "dead end."
He also added, "Egypt demands the Security Council to endorse the special resolution on the Ethiopia Dam brought forward by Tunisia", calling the resolution "balanced and constructive".
This resolution asks for the settlement of the crisis within a period of 6 months, that Ethiopia stop filling the dam, and that the Council adds this matter to its agenda, as it is long overdue since 2011.
Shukri warned that if Egypt's water rights, or "if its survival is imperiled, Egypt will be left with no alternative but to uphold and protect its inherent right to life that is guaranteed by the laws and customs of nations and the imperatives of nature."
Sudan asks Security Council for Help in Reaching a Legally Binding Agreement
His Egyptian counterpart Mariam Al-Sadeq Mahdi said that her country asks the Security Council for help in reaching a legally binding agreement, without mentioning the draft resolution.
She warned that their silence might be interpreted as a green light for Ethiopia to continue filling the Dam.
Ethiopia: Egypt and Sudan's objections aim to stop our water usage
On the other hand, Ethiopia insists that the Dam does not threaten international peace and security, and thus, does not require a Security Council session.
Ethiopian Water and Irrigation Minister Seleshi Bekele Awulachew said that Cairo and Khartoum's objections are not actually aimed at the Renaissance Dam, but rather at denying Ethiopia of its right of water usage." He added that in contrast to Egypt and Sudan, Ethiopia does not possess great groundwater reserves.
On his part, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, called on all sides to resolve the matter constructively and avoid any statements that can increase tensions in a region facing a series of challenges.
He stressed that "each of the countries sharing the Nile waters has both rights and responsibilities, and the use and management of this natural resource requires the continued engagement of all nations involved, in good faith, with a view to reaching common ground."
Since 2011, Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia have been negotiating to reach an agreement on the filling and operation of the Renaissance Dam, which is set to be the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa, with an expected capacity of 6500 MW.
In March 2015, the presidents of Egypt and Sudan, and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia signed a "declaration of principles" agreement in Khartoum.
Ethiopia deems the dam a necessity to achieve economic development, whereas Egypt sees it as a vital threat, as the Nile provides it with around 97% of irrigation and drinking water.
Although Egypt and Sudan called on Ethiopia to postpone its plans to fill the dam's reservoir until a full agreement is reached, Addis Ababa announced on July 21, 2020, that it has completed the first stage of filling the 4.9 billion cubic meter reservoir. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that his country looks forward to the second filling of the Renaissance Dam in July.