Egypt said it would hold talks with Ethiopia to iron out differences over a dam on the River Nile that Cairo sees as a threat to water supplies. Picture: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Egypt said it would hold talks with Ethiopia to iron out differences over a dam on the River Nile that Cairo sees as a threat to water supplies. Picture: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Ethiopia upbeat on resolving dam feud with Egypt, Sudan

By Bloomberg Time of article published Oct 27, 2020

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INTERNATIONAL - Ethiopia is confident of making headway in resolving a long-running dispute with Egypt and Sudan over a giant dam it’s building on a tributary of the Nile River during a fresh round of talks scheduled for Tuesday.

The negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam are taking place under the auspices of the African Union, chaired by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Sudanese counterpart Abdalla Hamdok are all expected to attend the virtual meeting. Ramaphosa’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Talks will continue with “a general understanding” on contentious issues, such as how to deal with future developments on the river, Zerihun Yigzaw, a member of Ethiopia’s negotiation team, said by phone. “We are in a much better position and environment, and we can discuss frankly and transparently.”

The resumption of negotiations following a seven-week break comes days after U.S. President Donald Trump suggested Egypt could blow up the multi-billion dollar structure. He criticized Ethiopia for rejecting U.S. recommendations to end the impasse.

The South African Institute of Civil Engineering and the Water Institute of Southern Africa have warned Trump’s comments could increase instability on the continent. “Our own experience has shown that cooperation with our neighbors on shared water has contributed to peace and prosperity,” they said in a joint statement.

Ethiopia vowed not to cave into pressure and said it’s committed to cooperation on the Nile, based on mutual trust and equitable and reasonable utilization of the river. The Horn of Africa country has asserted its right to construct the dam and a linked hydro-power plant, which could generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity once completed.

The U.S. last month suspended aid to Ethiopia over its plans to fill the dam before agreeing with Egypt and Sudan on how the reservoir will be managed. Egypt, which depends on the Nile for most of its fresh-water needs, is opposed to any development that could impact the flow downstream -- a position echoed by Sudan.

BLOOMBERG

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