Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UN Security Council briefing on peace and security in Africa (situation around the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam)
We welcome participation in this briefing of Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt Sameh Hassan Shoukry, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sudan Mariam al-Mahdi, and Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy of Ethiopia Seleshi Bekele.
We thank USG and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme Inger Andersen, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Horn of Africa Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, as well as Charge Affairs a.i. of the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the United Nations Paul Empole for their insights.
Russia closely follows the developments around the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile River. We fully realize the political and socio-economic relevance of this hydroelectric project, the largest on the African continent, for the multi-million population of Ethiopia that experiences significant shortages of electric energy. At the same time, we note legitimate concerns of Egypt and Sudan over possible negative impact that unconcerted functioning of the dam may produce on the population of those countries in droughty years.
We are convinced that there is no alternative to settling this water-related dispute by political and diplomatic means through negotiations between the three countries. The solution is to be sought in accordance with the letter and spirit of the 2015 Khartoum Declaration, taking into account modalities elaborated in the trilateral format that define parameters of operation of GERD. It requires trust and mutual understanding, whereas inflation of tension and claims about possible use of force are unacceptable. We do not conceal that we are concerned over the escalating confrontational rhetoric that does not facilitate search for compromise solutions.
We believe that divergences on issues of socio-economic development must not trigger threats to peace and security. Making step-by-step arrangements on separate aspects of filling the GERD reservoir and further operation of the dam could ease the confrontation and lead the sides to a comprehensive mutually acceptable agreement. The best solution would be to have such document agreed with all countries of the Nile river basin, which should all take part in defining parameters of equitable water management.
We positively assess African Union’s engagement in the settlement of GERD-related disputes, including via its Legal and Technical Committee. We think that capabilities of this trusted regional organization in terms of settling the water crisis have not been exhausted yet. We call on the DRC Chairmanship in the African Union to galvanize efforts at this track. We presume that increasing the number of mediators and observers at the negotiations is not likely to add value to the process. However this can be done given consent of all sides.
In conclusion, we would like to articulate some concrete proposals. Since all interested stakeholders have gathered here in New York, we suggest holding a round of talks to settle disputes around GERD on the margins, under mediation of the African Union Chair. We believe it would be the best contribution the Security Council can make to resolving this issue in the spirit of the principle “African solutions – to the African problems”, to which all of us are committed.
We emphasize that Russia is ready to facilitate resolution of this complicated problem. Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan are our close friends, and we do hope that they will be able to settle the remaining disputes soon, agree on modalities of filling the GERD and arrive at compromise solutions of all issues related to operation of the dam.
We reiterate Russia’s readiness to ensure satellite monitoring of the filling of the reservoir, should all sides to the trilateral talks submit such a request.