The UAE believes a successful conclusion to negotiations over a hydroelectric dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile is “within reach”, according to a statement posted on the website of the Permanent Mission of the UAE to the UN.
The project – known as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or GERD – has led to a stand-off between Ethiopia and downstream allies Egypt and Sudan.
The UAE said this should be tackled in the spirit of “African solutions to African challenges”.
Egypt and Sudan have complained that Ethiopia acted unilaterally and started to fill the reservoir behind the dam on the Blue Nile. They also protested over Ethiopia starting to generate electricity from the dam earlier this year.
Egypt has expressed concerns that a quick filling of the reservoir will reduce its share of Nile waters, which the country depends on for almost its entire needs for fresh water. A drop in its share of the river's waters, it argues, would wipe out hundreds of thousands of jobs in the agricultural sector and upset its delicate food supply for its 103 million people.
Both Egypt and Sudan want a guarantee that they will receive a certain amount of water from the Nile and a legally binding deal on the operation and filling of the dam.
Sudan says it needs real-time data on the operation of the dam, built only 20 kilometres from its border with Ethiopia, to ensure the smooth operation of its own hydroelectric dams on the Nile and to head off ruinous flooding.
Ethiopia has said the project is vital to generate electricity for millions of its people and insists that recommendations, rather than a legally binding deal on the dam's operation, should suffice.
The UAE said achieving an agreement on the dam presented an opportunity to "enhance and accelerate regional integration".
The UAE "underscores the essential role of the African Union (AU), welcomes the commitment of the three countries to the AU-led negotiations, and encourages them to continue negotiating in good faith", the mission said.
“Taking into account the progress already achieved through different initiatives undertaken in support of the AU-led process, the UAE believes the 2015 Declaration of Principles on the Gerd remains a foundational reference point," it said, alluding to an agreement reached by the three countries on how to proceed with settling the dispute.
Both Sudan and Egypt say the declaration has been breached repeatedly by Ethiopia.
“The UAE supports the objectives of the parties to agree and resolve their differences to maximise the benefits to them and their peoples.”
The UAE holds a seat on the 15-member UN Security Council. The country assumed its role on January 1 after being elected by the General Assembly as one of five new members to serve on the council in 2022 and 2023.
Last week, Egypt complained to the UN Security Council about Ethiopia's decision to "unilaterally" continue with the filling of the dam for a third consecutive year in the absence of an agreement on its filling and operation with the two downstream nations.
The last time the three nations held negotiations on the dispute was in April last year in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo. That round broke down in acrimony with Egypt and Sudan on one side and Ethiopia on the other blaming each other for the failure of the talks.