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Sunday, 4 July 2021

Is the UN Security Council planning to be useful some time this century?

The UN Security Council has woken up to a potential water war brewing in Africa just long enough to hit the snooze button. The council will “likely meet” this week to discuss the ongoing Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) crisis with Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan in attendance, French UN Ambassador and council president Nicolas de Riviere told reporters on Thursday, according to Reuters.

But hold your horses, this is the UN Security Council after all: The move, which was prompted by calls from Egypt and Sudan and opposed by Ethiopia, will likely not amount to much, said Riviere. There was little the Security Council could do other than bring the parties together to express their concerns and then encourage them to return to negotiations to reach a solution, he said. "I don't think the council can do much more than that," he told reporters.

So when will this latest waste of time happen? The council meeting will take place on Thursday, 8 July, the Sudanese government said in a press statement cited by the Sudanese state news agency SUNA.

Nothing is official yet, though: The scheduled meeting doesn’t appear to have yet made it on the council’s schedule (pdf) for July, nor was it mentioned during its monthly presser on Thursday.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry sounded more optimistic on the airwaves last night, telling Al Kahera Wal Nas that the “unprecedented” Security Council meeting could force a change in the negotiations that will get all three countries back around the table (watch, runtime 16:49). Through this, the fifteen-member council should be able to contain any possibility of conflict between the three nations, he said in a separate interview with Masaa DMC (watch, runtime 10:45).

Full-court press by Egypt and Sudan ahead of the meeting: The reports come as Egypt and Sudan look to wrangle support for the council to help halt plans by Ethiopia to unilaterally begin the second filling of the dam this summer. Both countries are lobbying to get a majority of nine votes for the approval of their draft resolution, Ambassador Maged Abdelfattah Abdelaziz, permanent observer for the Arab League at the UN, told Lamees El Hadidi’s Kelma Akhira last night (watch, runtime 19:11). Egypt is trying to get the US, Russia, China and the A3+1 group (Kenya, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) on board ahead of the meeting.

What’s in the proposed resolution? It entails calling the three countries to resume negotiations and draft a binding agreement on filling and operating the dam within six months, Abdelaziz said in a separate phone interview with Ala Mas'ouleety's Ahmed Moussa (watch, runtime 9:13). The resolution would also protect Ethiopia’s right to generate electricity and prevent damage to the other downstream countries’s water security.

A UN committee will convene on Tuesday to discuss the draft resolution elements, submitted earlier by Tunisia on the behalf of Egypt and Sudan, Abdelaziz added.

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