Arab foreign ministers on Tuesday backed calls for the United Nations Security Council to intervene in a lingering dispute between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia over a massive dam (Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – GERD) Addis Ababa is building on Nile River’s main tributary.
The move, announced at a meeting in Qatar, was the latest push by Cairo and Khartoum to reach an agreement on the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the Arab countries will press for the Security Council to hold an urgent session on the decade-long dispute.
Aboul Gheit spoke at a joint news conference with Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Doha, following the meeting of Arab ministers.
The three nations had been close to reaching a U.S.-brokered accord last year, but Ethiopia walked out of a signing meeting in Washington, accusing former President Donald Trump’s administration of siding with Egypt.
Cairo and Khartoum have repeatedly called for the U.S., the European Union, and the U.N. to join the talks as mediators, along with the African Union. Addis Ababa has rejected the idea.
The agreement would spell out how the dam is operated and filled, based on international law and norms governing cross-border rivers.
The dam is now 80% complete and is expected to reach full generating capacity in 2023, making it Africa’s largest hydroelectric power plant and the world’s seventh-largest, according to reports in Ethiopia’s state media.
The dispute now centers on how quickly Ethiopia should fill and replenish the reservoir and how much water it releases downstream in case of a multi-year drought. The latest round of African Union-brokered negotiations in April failed to make progress.
Tuesday’s development came amid diplomatic and political pressure by Egypt and Sudan on Ethiopia ahead its planned second phase of filling the dam. They argue that Ethiopia’s plan to add 13.5 billion cubic meters of water in 2021 to the dam’s reservoir is a threat to them.
Egypt and Sudan said they had sent letters to the Security Council this month, explaining their positions on the dam. Both warned about dire repercussions to peace and stability of the Horn of Africa without a deal.
They accused Ethiopia of failing to help reach a “fair, balanced and legally binding” agreement in previous talks overseen by the African Union.
Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement late Tuesday denouncing the Arab League communique. It said the 22-member bloc’s approach “unhelpful and misguided” on the dispute. Addis Ababa has maintained that the dam will help pull millions of its nearly 110 million citizens out of poverty and make the country a major power exporter.