EGYPT PHONES RUSSIA’S FOREIGN MINISTER TO GARNER SUPPORT OVER GERD

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The Foreign Minister of Egypt Sameh Shoukry called Sergey Lavrov Russia’s Foreign Minister on June 21, 2020, to garner support over the ongoing dispute between Ethiopia and Egypt regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

In a statement released by the Russian Embassy in Addis Abeba today, the Egyptian foreign minister passed his distress over Egypt’s concern over the dam in addition to detailing Cairo’s pending UN Security Council request for intervention.

However, the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov restated Russia’s position regarding the need to achieve a mutually acceptable compromise based on the interests of all stakeholders.

He told his Egypt counterpart, Russia will stick to this position when discussing this matter on various multilateral platforms, including the UN.

The ministers exchanged opinions on other issues such as the current situation in Libya before ending the phone call.

The conversation initiated by Egypt comes at a time where the tension between the two countries is high and comes just two weeks before Ethiopia starts filling the dam.

The latest phone call is part of a series of Egypt’s efforts to apply international pressure on Addis Ababa through diplomatic channels. Egypt has been pulling its diplomatic cards calling on allies with large investments in Ethiopia to use their economic weight to force them to the negotiating table and commit to a binding agreement.

Egypt has so far approached the U.S, China, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia who have a combined total investment of 17 billion dollars in Ethiopia to put pressure on Ethiopia and use their economic leverage.  But, the diplomatic strategy bore no fruit as the countries did not agree to suspend their investments.

In May, Egypt wrote to the United Nations Security Council urging the bloc to call on Ethiopia to not act unilaterally by filling the dam. Sudan sent a similar letter. In response, Ethiopia sent a letter to the Security Council two weeks later saying it “does not have a legal obligation to seek the approval of Egypt to fill the dam.

But, after the recent round of negotiations failed, last week, Egypt formally called on the United Nations Security Council to intervene in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) dispute invoking legal articles that might result in international intervention.

The five-page letter to Nicolas Dorevier, the permanent UN representative of France invoked article 35 of the UN Charter, stated that an international peace and security crisis would result from the unilateral filling of the dam.

The article permits member states to alert the council to any crisis that threatens international peace and security.

Under Chapter VI of the charter, the council can issue a recommendation to parties to a conflict urging them to continue negotiations, even if the parties do not agree to solicit the council’s decision. The Security Council can also issue binding decisions to parties to a dispute if it judges the conflict to constitute a threat to peace.

Yesterday, the Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew, submitted Ethiopia’s response to Egypt’s letter arguing that Cairo erroneously portrayed the dam as a threat to international security.

He argued that Egypt has no intention of reaching success in the trilateral process as its basing its claim over historic rights and is rather internationalizing the GERD issue.

He added that Ethiopia would remain faithful to accepted guidelines and rules once the agreement is reached between the involved countries. However, he noted that Ethiopia had no plan to postpone its right to fill the dam until such a deal is achieved.

Mada Masr, a Cairo-based news organization, last week, quoting an advisor to Egypt’s Minister of Irrigation, has reported that Egypt was committed to garnering international support to settle issues through diplomatic measures.

The latest call to the Russian Foreign minister is part of this strategy as the Russian Federation is a permanent member of the Security Council that will preside over the submitted UN Security council request.

The Council that has 15 member states has not made any formal expressions over the issue yet.