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Thursday, 8 July 2021

Tunisia presses UN Security Council for action

Tunisia calls for action on GERD at the UN Security Council: Tunisia is pressing the UN Security Council to call for trilateral binding agreement over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Reuters reports, citing a draft resolution submitted by Tunisia to the 15-member council.

Our first glimpse of the draft resolution text: It “calls upon 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.” The resolution was also reportedly calling for resuming the AU-led negotiations to reach an agreement within six months.

The UN secretary-general and the US have also warned against unilateral action, and on Tuesday called on the three countries to return to the negotiating table under the current African Union- led process.

But Ethiopia says that the resolution would marginalize the AU: A senior Ethiopian diplomat told Reuters that the resolution would “effectively scuttle” the AU-sponsored talks, and that the country is fighting against it. The upstream country “does not believe the matter falls within the purview of the council,” they added.

This has been the key disagreement between the countries in recent months: Sudan and Egypt have lost faith in the AU as a mediator and both want new players to be brought in to mediate the process. Ethiopia has refused and wants to continue with the current format.

Egypt and Sudan are trying hard to drum up the council’s support and hoping to get a majority of votes for the approval of the draft after Ethiopia notified the two downstream of unilaterally starting the second filling of GERD. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry yesterday held talks with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, a day after meeting representatives of the US, China, Russia, UK and France — the five permanent members of the council.

We’re on our toes as a vote is expected today or next week: The council's members will vote today if they have minor changes, yet the voting process could be pushed for next week if they have issues with the main points of the resolution.

But dial back your expectations: France’s UN representative and current chair of the Security Council said last week that it probably isn’t going to do much to intervene in the dispute beyond encouraging the countries to resume talks.

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