LONDON: The US on Tuesday called on all parties in the Grand Renaissance Dam dispute to refrain from any unilateral actions that would raise tensions, a day after Ethiopia began filling the dam’s reservoir.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Ethiopia’s announcement that it has started to fill the dam has the potential to raise tensions.
“We understand, of course, the importance of the Nile waters to all three of these countries, and we continue to encourage a resumption of a dialogue that we hope is productive, substantive, and constructive,” Price said, adding that the US continues to support collaborative and constructive efforts by the parties involved to reach an enduring arrangement.
Price said the US has also supported the African Union-led process, which aims to lower tensions and facilitate productive negotiations to enhance regional cooperation.
“We do call on all parties to refrain from any unilateral action that would raise those tensions, that would put greater distance between where we are now and a peaceful, constructive resolution to this, and we call for all parties to commit themselves to a negotiated solution that is acceptable to all sides,” Price added.
The United Nations called on Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt on Tuesday to recommit to talks on the operation of the giant hydropower dam, also urging them to avoid any unilateral action.
The UN Security Council will likely discuss the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam this week after Arab states requested the 15-member body address the issue.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres backs the role of the African Union in mediating between the countries, Guterres’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.
“What is also important, that there be no unilateral action that would undermine any search for solutions. So, it’s important that people recommit themselves to engage in good faith in a genuine process,” Dujarric said on Tuesday.
Ethiopia said the dam on its Blue Nile is crucial to its economic development and providing power to its population.
Egypt views the dam as a grave threat to its Nile water supplies, on which it is almost entirely dependent. Sudan, another downstream country, has expressed concern about the dam’s safety and the impact on its own dams and water stations.
“Solutions to this need to be guided by example ... by solutions that have been found for others who share waterways, who share rivers, and that is based on the principle of equitable and reasonable utilization and the obligation not to cause significant harm,” Dujarric said.
Egypt’s irrigation minister said on Monday he had received official notice from Ethiopia that it had begun filling the reservoir behind the dam for a second year. Cairo said it rejected the measure as a threat to regional stability.
Meanwhile, Tunisia has submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council calling on Ethiopia to cease filling the reservoir, diplomatic sources said Tuesday.
The huge dam is set to be Africa’s largest hydroelectric project when completed.
The draft resolution calls on “Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan to resume negotiations at the joint invitation of the Chairperson of the African Union and the Secretary-General of the United Nations to finalize, within a period of six months, the text of a binding agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD.” GERD is an acronym for the dam.
The resolution adds the agreement should “ensure Ethiopia’s ability to generate hydropower from the GERD while preventing the inflicting of significant harm on the water security of downstream states.”
It urges the “three countries to refrain from making any statements, or taking any action that may jeopardize the negotiation process, and urges Ethiopia to refrain from continuing to unilaterally fill the GERD reservoir.”
No date has been set for a vote on the draft resolution and diplomatic sources have said it is unlikely it will be put to a vote as early as Thursday’s meeting.
(With Reuters and AFP)