CAIRO (AP) – Egypt wants the United Nations Security Council to “assume its responsibilities” and prevent Ethiopia from starting to fill its massive, newly built hydropower dam on the Nile River next month during an interruption of negotiations, next month, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry told The Associated Press on Sunday accusing Ethiopian officials of fueling antagonism between the countries.
Ethiopia announced on Friday that it would fill the dam’s reservoir in July, even after the last round of talks with Egypt and Sudan failed last week to reach an agreement on how the dam will be filled and operated.
Egypt formally requested the Security Council to intervene in a letter the same day.
“The responsibility of the Security Council is to address a relevant threat to international peace and security, and certainly Ethiopia’s unilateral action in this regard would pose such a threat,” Shukry said in an interview with the AP.
Filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam would potentially bring the years-long dispute between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia over the $ 4.6 million mega project at a critical time. Ethiopia said that the electricity that will be generated by the dam is a crucial lifeline to lift millions out of poverty. With the beginning of the rainy season in July that brings more water to the Blue Nile, the main tributary of the Nile, Ethiopia wants to fill the reservoir.
Egypt, which depends on the Nile for more than 90% of its water resources, fears a devastating impact if the dam is operated without regard to its needs. Sudan, which is also largely dependent on the Nile for water, is caught between competing interests.
The United States attempted to make a deal earlier this year, but Ethiopia did not attend the February signing meeting and accused the Trump administration of taking the side of Egypt. Last week, the US National Security Council tweeted that “257 million people in East Africa rely on Ethiopia to show strong leadership, which means they have to make a fair deal.”
Shukry warned that filling the reservoir without an agreement would violate the 2015 statement of principles for their talks – and would preclude a return to negotiations.
“We are not asking for security measures from the Security Council,” he said. In a three-page letter to the council, Egypt asked to re-involve Ethiopia in the talks for a “fair and balanced solution” and to urge it to refrain from any unilateral action, warning that filling the dam without deal “a clear and present threat to Egypt” with implications “threatening international peace and security”.
Pending the dispute was fears that it could escalate into a military conflict, especially since Egypt – confronted by what it calls an existential threat – repeatedly falls dead trying to close a deal. Commentators in Egypt’s pro-government media have often called for action to stop Ethiopia. A commentator, Moustafa al-Saeed, said in a Facebook post that filling the reservoir would be a declaration of war and urged the government to block Ethiopian traffic through the Suez Canal.
Shukry stressed that the Egyptian government has not threatened military action, sought a political solution, and tried to convince the Egyptian public that Ethiopia has the right to build the dam to meet its development goals.
“Egypt has never, and never indirectly, referred to such opportunities in the past six years,” he said of military action.
But, he said, if the Security Council cannot bring negotiations back into Ethiopia and the interpretation begins, “we will be in a situation that we will face,” he said. “When that time comes for us, we will be very clear and clear what action we will take.”
He called on the US and other members of the Security Council, along with African countries, to assist in reaching an agreement that “takes into account the interests of all three countries”.
Bottlenecks in the talks were how much water Ethiopia will deliver downstream of the dam if a multi-year drought occurs and how Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan will resolve future disputes.
This month, ministers from the three countries negotiated for seven days via video conference, but talks ended Wednesday with no deal. No date had been set for a return to the table.
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew told the AP on Friday that filling the dam would start with the July rainy season and dismissed the need for an agreement. He accused Egypt of trying to “dictate and control even future developments on our river”.
Egyptian Shukry responded on Sunday that Ethiopia withdrew from previously agreed points.
“We have often been flexible and accommodating. But I cannot say that Ethiopia has a similar political will, “he said.
He called Andargachew’s comments “disappointing,” noting “the escalation of antagonism created deliberately.” He was now beginning to fill the reservoir, he said, and would show “a desire to control the flow of the water and have an effective only determination” of the water reaching Egypt and Sudan.
After talks ended on Wednesday, Sudan’s irrigation minister said his country and Egypt rejected Ethiopia’s attempts to introduce articles about water sharing in the dam deal. Egypt has received the lion’s share of Nile waters under decades-old agreements dating back to the British colonial era. Eighty-five percent of the Nile’s waters come from Ethiopia from the Blue Nile.
Shukry said that Egypt claims that an agreement can be made, but that it should “be negotiated in good faith.” He said that any future deal on Nile waters should take into account the fact that Ethiopia has other water sources besides the Nile.
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