FILE - Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam is seen as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia September 26, 2019. Picture taken September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
CAIRO – 25 June 2020: Egypt last week decided to request the United Nations Security Council’s intervention in the dispute on Ethiopia’s massive dam, after Egypt said several times that the two countries have been deadlocked over the dam.
In an interview with Egypt Today, Muhammad Sameh Amr, professor and head of the Department of International Law at the Faculty of Law in the 113-year old Cairo University said if, during the past two weeks, Egypt submitted a letter with an explanatory and explaining note to the member states of the UNSC, this is only the product of a long, five-year march that has not yet resulted in an agreement.
Hassan Abu Taleb, a member of the advisory board of the state-run Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies, has tried to expect the impact of such diplomatic step and the next step Egypt may resort to.
“The Egyptian eagerness to go to the Security Council is a step that its various aspects were assessed, whether it will succeed or not,” Abu Taleb says.
He noted that any decision to be issued by the Security Council should be approved by the five permanent members—the United States, China, Russia, United Kingdom and France. Abu Taleb noted that some of these countries have big interests in Ethiopia, while some others are not even concerned with the issue and some of them took several steps to urge the three parties of the dispute—Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to find a binding and international tripartite agreement, but stopped after Ethiopia withdrew from negotiations in a critical moment.
“We are open to all possibilities. So, it is an important step but not the end,” Abu Taleb said.
By referring the issue to the Security Council, in accordance with articles 34 and 35 of the United Nations Charter, Egypt requests the council to undertake its responsibilities in preserving international peace and security and pressurize Ethiopia into committing itself to the international law on international watercourses and refraining from filling the dam’s reservoir before a tripartite agreement is reached.
“As is well-known, every route has an end and then other routes start, which can be used to preserve people’s rights and the interests of the country, which cannot be wasted regardless of the burdens and costs,” Abu Taleb said.
“What matters is that the world should know the significance of the problem that Ethiopia is causing, the extent of harm that Egyptians are suffering and the extent of legal and moral violations which accompany the Ethiopian stance insisting on unilateral acts on Nile water,” Abu Taleb said, adding that this stance would create chaos in the region as a whole.
Abu Taleb said the world should also see Egypt’s keenness to stick to political settlements through negotiations, in a way that serve the joint interests and commitments without bias and know that issues of life and death cannot be accepted as a fait accompli and that the harmed country does have the right to protect its rights by all possible means.
Law experts in Egypt and Sudan think the two countries can decide to withdraw from the 2015 Declaration of Principles on GERD, in order to remove the legitimacy of the dam construction and make every unilateral act by Ethiopia in this regard without an agreement with both Egypt and Sudan an illegal act, Abu Taleb said.
Sameh Amr told Egypt Today there is a very important matter that when Egypt signed the Declaration of Principles, which is an international agreement concluded between the three countries concerned with this issue, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, there was an obligation on the Ethiopian side not to start filling before reaching an agreement.
There is a legal obligation, which falls on Ethiopia to not fill the dam, except after reaching an agreement, and this is a legitimate requirement, because when Egypt accepted to sign these principles, it was based on the principle of good faith and good dialogue, as well as the rights of the brotherly Ethiopian people in development, and all considerations are characterized and consistent with the norms of international law, contemporary international politics, and development considerations.
Abu Taleb also referred to “political propaganda” Ethiopia promotes in other African countries against Egypt based on “countless lies,” exploiting the fact that it houses the headquarters of the Organization of African Unity.
“Egypt will remain keen on [preserving] its relations with the Ethiopian people and is taking into account that they have been under the pressure of official media that conceal the government’s failure to properly exploit the massive water resources, which reach more than 1,200 billion cubic meters annually from several sources.”
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El Sisi on Wednesday urged the government to currently abide by the diplomatic path of negotiations, in an effort to solve the GERD crisis, the Presidency said.
In a meeting with Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli and a number of ministers, Sisi urged intensifying consultation with Sudan as well as member states of the United Nations Security Council in this regard.
During the meeting, which was attended by the ministers of defense, foreign affairs, water resources and irrigation, justice, finance and interior, the chief of intelligence and the head of the Administrative Control Authority, Sisi urged working at all levels to preserve Egypt’s water rights.
The meeting discussed the current situation on GERD issue developments, taking into consideration the constants and determinants of the Egyptian side in this regard, especially concerning developing a comprehensive agreement between all concerned parties on the rules of filling and operating the massive dam, and rejecting unilateral procedures that harm Egypt’s rights in Nile water.
Egypt has referred the GERD issue to the Security Council after Egypt’s Water Resources Minister Mohamed Abdel Aaty said talks to resolve differences on filling and operating GERD were concluded, after failing to persuade Ethiopia to refer the issue to the prime ministers of the three countries as a last chance to reach an agreement.
Abdel Aaty said the discussions have not achieved any significant progress, due to Ethiopia’s “rigid” stances on the technical and legal sides.
Ethiopia has refused to allow the three states to conclude a binding agreement that is consistent with international law and affirmed sticking to reaching only guidelines that Ethiopia can amend individually, the minister said.
Ethiopia also sought to obtain an absolute right to establish projects on the upper reaches of the Blue Nile River, Abdel Aaty said. It also refrained from agreeing on including a binding legal mechanism to settle disputes and effective procedures to face drought in the GERD agreement.
For more information on Ethiopia’s stance on GERD, also read: