Ethiopia Rejects Arab League Resolution Backing Egypt to Take GERD Meeting to the UNSC

A view of a wall of Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam.

Addis Abeba — Ethiopia has "rejected in its entirety" a resolution by the Executive Council of the League of Arab States backing Egypt's position in calling for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to intervene to push Ethiopia to sign a binding agreement on the GERD negotiations before Ethiopia began the second filling of the mega day this summer.

A statement by the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the resolution was a repeat of the Arab States "misguided positions on the GERD," and said that "as a result of its egregious support to the baseless claims of Egypt and the Sudan regarding the GERD, the League of Arab States has already squandered its opportunity to play a constructive role."

Tuesday's meeting of the Arab states, which was hosted by Qatar, came a few days after Egypt submitted 95 pages document to the UNSC calling for the council to intervene in the GERD negotiations before Ethiopia undertook the second filling of the dam. Egypt also accused Ethiopia of adopting "a policy of prevarication and obstructionism."

The document, seen by Addis Standard, threatened that "the current impasse in negotiations and the continued failure to reach an agreement on the GERD could have serious repercussions on regional stability and security."

"Failing to reach an agreement, and the unilateral filling and operation of this mega-dam, will adversely affect the water security and interests of downstream states which, in turn will have serious political and security ramifications. For Egypt, which already suffers acute water scarcity, being held hostage to the will and whim of an upstream riparian that already has a record of unilateralism is politically and strategically untenable. Protecting the sole source of livelihood of one hundred million Egyptians is not a question of choice; it is an imperative of survival. "

Ethiopia vehemently dismissed the call to involve the UNSC, and asserted that "the disagreement between Ethiopia, Egypt and the Sudan can only be resolved through good faith negotiation and compromise in the spirit of finding African solutions to African problems. It is precisely because of this reason that the United Nations Security Council referred the matter to the African Union," the statement said.

During Tuesday's meeting in Qatar, Sameh Shoukry, Foreign Minister of Egypt is quoted as saying, "African mediation on the Renaissance Dam began about a year ago, but unfortunately has not yielded the desired results."

On Monday June 14, in what is seen as a major shift in position, Sudan said it was "open to a partial agreement" on the mega dam before Ethiopia began the second filling, Reuters reported. "[The] conditions include the signing-off of everything that has already been agreed on in negotiations, ... provisions to ensure that the talks continue even after the filling scheduled for July, and the negotiations adhering to a definite timetable," the news portal quoted Sudanese Irrigation Minister, Yasir Abbas, as saying.

Ethiopia accuse both Egypt and Sudan of "deliberately" undermining the possibility of agreeing on a common roadmap. "Despite the tremendous efforts by the DRC to create the necessary conditions for the resumption of the trilateral negotiations at the meeting held in Kinshasa from 3-5 April 2021, the two countries deliberately undermined the possibility of agreeing on a roadmap for the continuation of the negotiations," the statement from MoFA reads.

Ethiopia's Statement

Ethiopia is dismayed by the "Resolution" of the Executive Council of the League of Arab States on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) issued on 15 June 2021 after its meeting held in Doha, Qatar. Ethiopia rejects the "Resolution" in its entirety. In fact, this is not the first time the League of Arab States issued a statement regarding its misguided positions on the GERD.

As a result of its egregious support to the baseless claims of Egypt and the Sudan regarding the GERD, the League of Arab States has already squandered its opportunity to play a constructive role. It should be abundantly clear that futile attempts like this to internationalize and politicize the GERD will not lead to sustainable regional cooperation in the utilization and management of the Nile.

The League of Arab States should know that utilization of the Nile waters is also an existential matter for Ethiopia. It is about lifting millions of its people out of abject poverty and meeting their energy, water and food security needs. Ethiopia is exercising its legitimate right to use its water resources in full respect for international water laws and the principle of causing no significant harm. Ethiopia firmly believes that it is only through cooperation and dialogue that the water security of any of the Nile Basin states can be achieved.

The Nile is a shared resource and not an exclusive property of Egypt and the Sudan. That is why it is perplexing that the League of Arab States places particular emphasis on the water security of the two downstream countries in complete disregard to the interest of the rest of the Nile riparian states, which are the sources of the river. There is no better example than this to demonstrate the organization's unhelpful and misguided approach towards the Nile issue.

From the outset, Ethiopia has done everything possible to accommodate the concerns of the two downstream countries in good faith with the hope of ushering in a new era of cooperation among the Nile Basin countries. It is the intransigence of both Egypt and the Sudan, which has made it extremely difficult to make any meaningful progress in the tripartite negotiation. During the South African-led negotiation, it was Egypt and the Sudan that disrupted the negotiations seven times.

Despite the tremendous efforts by the DRC to create the necessary conditions for the resumption of the trilateral negotiations at the meeting held in Kinshasa from 3-5 April 2021, the two countries deliberately undermined the possibility of agreeing on a roadmap for the continuation of the negotiations.

Ethiopia agreed to seven of the nine proposals contained in the draft communiqué prepared by the DRC, while Egypt and Sudan rejected the substantive parts of the communiqué. The two countries worked in concert to ensure the failure of the Kinshasa meeting by raising unrelated procedural issues. It is, therefore, regrettable that the League of Arab States decided to take a position on the AU-led negotiation without verifying the facts.

The League of Arab States also seems to be oblivious of the fact that the tripartite negotiation between Ethiopia, Egypt and the Sudan are guided by the Declaration of Principles (DoP), which the leaders of the three countries signed in 2015.

The filling of the GERD will be conducted as per the plan in accordance with the DoP and the recommendation of the research group composed of experts from the three countries. Hence, Ethiopia categorically rejects the futile attempt by the League of Arab States to dictate terms regarding the filling of the GERD. As a regional organization, it would have been only appropriate for the League of Arab States to encourage the three parties to reach a win-win solution instead of its unhelpful, partial and unreasonable position.

What is even more disappointing is the attempt by Egypt and the Sudan to unnecessarily politicize the GERD negotiation and try to make it an Arab issue. This clearly shows their lack of fidelity to the AU-led tripartite process.

The GERD is an African issue, which needs an African solution. The disagreement between Ethiopia, Egypt and the Sudan can only be resolved through good faith negotiation and compromise in the spirit of finding African solutions to African problems. It is precisely because of this reason that the United Nations Security Council referred the matter to the African Union.

Therefore, the League of Arab States should desist from making such unhelpful statements, which will only serve to antagonize the relations between the three countries and undermine the tripartite negotiation. It should instead encourage Egypt and the Sudan to engage in good faith negotiation to find a win-win solution and lend its full support to the ongoing AU-led process in this regard. Once again, Ethiopia reaffirms its commitment to the Declaration of Principles and remains fully engaged in the AU-led tripartite negotiation process to find a mutually beneficial outcome on the GERD issue.

Spokesperson Office, 15 June 2021

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