Giant Sahara dust cloud drifts over Caribbean and US, raising health concerns

Giant Sahara dust cloud drifts over Caribbean and US, raising health concerns
Giant Sahara dust cloud drifts over Caribbean and US, raising health concerns

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - CAIRO: The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) dispute between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan has reached the UN Security Council after 10 years of negotiations failed to yield an agreement regulating the filling of the dam's reservoir.

Egypt filed a request to the Security Council on June 19 to discuss the issue and the body has set next Monday for the general session, which will be attended by its 15 member states.

Egypt, which is almost entirely dependent on the River Nile for its freshwater, fears the dam will diminish its water supply, which is already below scarcity level. Around 85 percent of the Nile water that reaches Egypt flows from Ethiopian highlands.

Ethiopia hopes the massive $4.8 billion megaproject on the Blue Nile, which would generate 6,000 megawatts when completed, will allow it to become Africa’s largest power exporter.

An informed source told Arab News that Egypt and Sudan would take part in the session. Ethiopia has not yet confirmed its participation. Its foreign minister, Gedu Andargachew, told the German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur on Friday that his country intended to start filling the dam's reservoir despite the impasse.

“We will start filling the dam's lake during the coming months, even if there is no agreement between the three countries,” Andargachew said, adding that he hoped Ethiopia would reach an agreement with Egypt and Sudan.

Egypt’s former minister of water resources, Mohamed Nasr Allam, said that such a step and the upcoming Security Council session indicated that the council’s president was convinced by Egypt’s belief that Ethiopia’s unilateral action was unacceptable and created a state of instability that threatened international peace and security.

Allam said that Egypt had recently affirmed to the Security Council’s member states that it wanted to discuss the situation with the aim of reaching an agreement. 

He added that Egypt was counting on the stance of members after it submitted all the documents proving the soundness of its legal status and its “firm” rights on the issue.

In addition to the five permanent member states, the Security Council also includes Tunisia, South Africa, Niger, Indonesia, Vietnam, Germany, Estonia, the Dominican Republic, Belgium, and the Grenadine Islands.

Sudan had earlier called on the body to invite the leaders of the three countries to express their political will and commitment to resolving the outstanding issues. Sudan also called on it to persuade the three parties to adopt the comprehensive draft it had filed in the recent round of negotiations as a cornerstone of drafting and completing an agreement document that was satisfactory to all.

It said that there should be no unilateral measures, including starting filling the GERD prior to reaching an agreement, since these would have hazardous consequences on the dam’s operation and could endanger the lives of millions of people living upstream.

It warned that there was little time left to reach an agreement and urged all parties to work hard to reach an historic moment in the Nile Basin, and to make GERD a catalyst for cooperation instead of a reason for dispute and instability.

Hany Raslan, advisor to the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said in press statements that Egypt had agreed to the construction of GERD with the aim of generating power and that it was part of Ethiopia's development requisite.

Egypt has contacted the Security Council’s permanent member states to mobilize support for its stance. President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has also contacted South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa and reiterated Egypt’s position on reaching a comprehensive agreement regarding the dam’s filling and its future management, and for Ethiopia to refrain from any unilateral action.

An African Union (AU) summit session was held on Friday. The AU comprises South Africa as president, Egypt as the rapporteur, and Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya as members. The summit aimed to discuss ways to resume trilateral negotiations.  

The Arab League called on Ethiopia on Tuesday to “refrain” from starting to fill the dam's reservoir unless it reached an agreement with Egypt and Sudan with regards to operating the dam it is constructing. The Arab foreign ministers adopted a resolution that Somalia and Djibouti had reservations about.

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