The UN on Wednesday urged Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt to settle a row over a mega-dam built by Ethiopia on the Blue Nile and to share regional water sources before high-level talks on the dispute.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric called on the neighbours to avoid “unilateral action” that would obstruct reaching a deal on managing water flows into the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
The UN Security Council will discuss the dam on Thursday as Ethiopia plans to fill its reservoir for a second time this summer without an agreement with downstream nations Sudan and Egypt.
Speaking with reporters in New York, Mr Dujarric urged the countries to negotiate through the African Union and to “refrain from engaging in unilateral action that could undermine a solution being found”.
“There are many places around the world where major rivers flow through different countries,” said the spokesman.
“The solution about sharing the water exists and that’s based on the principle of equitable and reasonable utilisation.”
The council meeting was requested by the 15-nation body’s Arab member, Tunisia, on behalf of Egypt and Sudan.
Tunisia also proposed a draft resolution calling on Ethiopia to stop filling the reservoir and to finalise details of an agreement within six months.
A vote on the resolution was not expected to take place this week.
Nicolas de Riviere, the UN ambassador for France, which holds the council’s rotating presidency for July, has said the council can do little except encourage the three countries to reach an agreement on managing the river.
The foreign ministers of Egypt and Sudan were in New York for negotiations this week and they issued a joint statement on Monday calling Ethiopia’s decision to resume filling the reservoir a “dangerous escalation”.
Ethiopia says that filling the reservoir, especially during the heavy rainfall months of July and August, is an ordinary part of the construction process.
Once completed, the 145-metre tall dam will be Africa's largest hydroelectric project.
Ethiopia says the project is essential for economic growth and electricity generation, but Egypt and Sudan fear it could limit water access for citizens, farmers and factories.
Egypt depends on the Nile for almost all of its irrigation needs and drinking water, and sees the dam as an existential threat. The country’s pro-government media have hinted that the country may take military action.
Both governments have urged Addis Ababa to sign a binding deal over the filling and operation of the dam and have called on the Security Council to weigh in on the matter.
Tension over the dam has been on the rise since November due to a conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, where an offensive by government and allied forces sent refugees spilling across the border into Sudan.