Ethiopia rejected “in its entirety” an Arab League resolution calling on the UN Security Council to discuss its plan to fill a disputed Nile dam.
Ethiopia’s foreign ministry accused the Arab League of taking a misguided position on the dispute and of embracing “baseless claims” made by downstream Egypt and Sudan. The two accuse Ethiopia of intransigence in the decade-long negotiations that have failed to produce a deal on filling and operating the dam.
The statement is likely to further stoke tensions between Egypt and Sudan on the one hand and Ethiopia on the other, as the clock ticks away before the start of the rainy season next month when a second filling of the dam is scheduled to begin.
“It should be abundantly clear that futile attempts like this to internationalise and politicise the Gerd [Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam] will not lead to sustainable regional co-operation in the utilisation and management of the Nile,” an Ethiopian Foreign Ministry statement on Tuesday night said.
“The Nile is a shared resource and not an exclusive property of Egypt and Sudan,” it said.
Ethiopia contends that the hydroelectric Gerd, which is 80 per cent complete, will lift millions of its people out of poverty and become an engine of development in the landlocked nation in the Horn of Africa.
It refuses to enter a legally binding agreement on operating and filling the dam as demanded by Egypt and Sudan, arguing that guidelines should suffice.
It has on occasion suggested that any agreement on the dam should be part of a water-sharing agreement between all 10 Nile Basin nations. Egypt and Sudan rejected this proposal.
The most populous Arab nation with 100 million people, Egypt depends on the Nile for more than 90 per cent of its fresh water needs. It fears that the dam will significantly reduce its share of the Nile’s water, costing hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Sudan, for its part, said its own power-generating Nile dams and water treatment plants would be affected without real-time co-ordination with Ethiopia on operating the dam.
Meeting in Doha on Tuesday, Arab foreign ministers agreed on “steps to be taken gradually” to support Egypt and Sudan in the dispute, according to Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.
The ministers called on Ethiopia to negotiate “in good faith” and refrain from any harmful, unilateral steps, a reference to Addis Ababa’s declared intention to go ahead with the second filling of the dam without a prior agreement with Egypt and Sudan.
Ethiopia previously rejected calls from Egypt and Sudan to involve mediators from outside the African Union. It maintains that the dam dispute was an African issue that required an African solution.
“It is perplexing that the League of Arab States places particular emphasis on the water security of the two downstream countries in complete disregard of the interest of the rest of the Nile riparian states which are the sources of the Nile,” said the Ethiopian statement.
The dispute over the dam was discussed by the UN Security Council last year, but the 15-member body did not issue a resolution of any kind, recommending only that the African Union should persuade the three nations to negotiate an agreement.
Nearly a year of AU sponsorship of the talks followed, but no progress was made. The last round of talks broke down in April.