Saudi Arabia strongly supports Egypt and Sudan in a heated dispute with Ethiopia over the latter’s construction of a large hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile, a major tributary of the Nile.
The Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is the source of the diplomatic deadlock between Ethiopia and the downstream countries Egypt and Sudan for nearly a decade. Ethiopia stated that the project is critical to its development, but the governments of Cairo and Khartoum are worried that it will restrict water supply to their citizens.
Tuesday, the day after Ethiopia Start filling In the reservoir of the dam, the Saudi Arabian National News Agency SPA stated that the country supports Egypt and Sudan to “maintain their legal water rights” and their efforts to “contain this crisis and resolve the crisis in accordance with the rules of international law”.
“Saudi Arabia calls on the international community to step up efforts to find a clear mechanism to initiate negotiations between the three countries to get rid of this crisis,” it said.
It is reported that Tunisia has submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council calling on Ethiopia to stop filling the GERD reservoir. The 15-member body may discuss the dispute on Thursday.
The draft resolution obtained by Agence France-Presse called on Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to “at the joint invitation of the Chairman of the African Union and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, within 6 months, a binding agreement on the filling and operation of GERD.”
The resolution added that the agreement should “ensure Ethiopia’s ability to produce hydropower from GERD while preventing significant damage to the water security of downstream countries”.
It urged “the three countries not to make any statements or any actions that might endanger the negotiation process, and urge Ethiopia not to continue to unilaterally fill the GERD reservoir”.
The date for voting on the draft resolution has not yet been determined.
‘No unilateral action’
For many years, these three countries have been engaged in fruitless negotiations around GERD, which broke ground in 2011.
The focus of the controversy is the water injection rate of the planned reservoir behind the dam, the annual water replenishment method, and how much water Ethiopia will release downstream if there are years of drought. Another difference is how these three countries will resolve any future disputes.
Egypt and Sudan hope to reach a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam, while Ethiopia adheres to the guidelines.
Late on Monday, Egypt stated that it had received Ethiopian notification that the second phase of filling work had begun at GERD, adding that Egypt had rejected the measure, believing that it poses a threat to regional stability. Sudan said on Tuesday that it had received the same notice.
Ethiopia has previously announced that it will carry out the second phase of filling in July, regardless of whether an agreement is reached. It believes that adding water to the reservoir, especially during the heavy rains in July and August, is a natural part of the construction.
At the same time, the United Nations on Tuesday called on all parties concerned to recommit to talks, urging them to avoid any unilateral actions.
Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, told reporters in New York that he supports the role of the African Union as a mediator between the two countries.
“It is also important that there is no unilateral action that will undermine any solution. Therefore, it is important that people recommit themselves to a genuine process of genuine participation,” he said.
Dujarric said that solutions need to lead by example.
“Solutions have been found for others who share waterways and rivers. This is based on the principle of fair and reasonable utilization and the obligation not to cause major damage.”
The US State Department said on Tuesday that Ethiopia’s landfill of GERD could increase tensions because it also urged all parties not to take unilateral actions against the dam.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that the United States calls on all parties to negotiate a settlement that is acceptable to all parties.
Ethiopia stated that GERD is critical to its economic growth and believes that the vast majority of its population lacks electricity. The dam will generate more than 6,400 megawatts of electricity, greatly increasing the country’s current power generation capacity of 4,000 megawatts.
Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world, with a population of more than 100 million. Almost all of its water needs depend on the Nile. It is worried that the rapid filling will greatly reduce the flow of the river, which may have a serious impact on its agriculture and other sectors.
Sudan hopes that Ethiopia will coordinate and share data on dam operations to avoid flooding and protect its power generation dam on the Blue Nile.
The Blue Nile River merges with the White Nile River in central Sudan. From there, the Nile winds northward through Egypt and into the Mediterranean.