Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan deadlocked over giant Nile dam

A diplomat close to the talks said Ethiopia did not offer sufficient guarantees on water reserves.
Friday 10/01/2020
Thorny issue. Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy Seleshi Bekele speaks to reporters after talks in Addis Ababa, January 9. (AFP)
Thorny issue. Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy Seleshi Bekele speaks to reporters after talks in Addis Ababa, January 9. (AFP)

ADDIS ABABA - Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan remained deadlocked after two days of talks in their disputes over a giant hydropower dam on the Nile though Cairo said it hoped the issues would be resolved by January 15 in line with a deadline agreed to with Washington.

“We did not reach an agreement today but we achieved clarity at least on all issues including the filling. We hope to reach a deal next week in Washington,” Egyptian Water Minister Mohamed Abdel Aty said January 9, after two days of meetings in Addis Ababa.

The countries are to convene January 13 in Washington to try to resolve their disagreements over the filling and operation of the $4 billion hydroelectric dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile.

They agreed to the timeline after a meeting in Washington with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and World Bank President David Malpass in November.

After the meetings in Addis Ababa ended with no progress, Ethiopian Water Minister Seleshi Bekele accused Egypt of going to the talks with no intention of reaching a deal.

“We didn’t agree on the filling of the dam as Egypt presented a new proposal requesting the filling to be carried out in 12-21 years. This is not acceptable. We will start the filling of the dam by July,” Bekele said.

The dispute over the filling and operation of the massive dam has sparked a diplomatic crisis between Egypt and Ethiopia, which both see existential threats in each other’s positions on the project.

Cairo fears the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will restrict supplies of scarce Nile waters on which its population of more than 100 million people is almost entirely dependent.

Addis Ababa denied the dam will undermine Egypt’s access to water and said the project is crucial to its economic development, as it aims to become Africa’s biggest power exporter with a projected capacity of more than 6,000 megawatts.

A diplomat close to the talks said Ethiopia did not offer sufficient guarantees on water reserves.

“Ethiopia is not willing to commit to any meaningful mitigation safeguards including during extended drought, therefore there was no prospect for an agreement. Next step is going to (Washington),” he said.

If the dispute is not resolved by January 15, an international mediator will be appointed to help resolve it, the deal the countries reached in Washington states.

(Reuters)

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