Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to agree Nile dam deal in weeks

Negeri  File

Negeri File

The agreement to start filling the dam's reservoir in two weeks came after an African Union-led online summit between the three countries.

This June 2013 photo shows construction work at the site of the planned Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam near Assosa in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia, near Sudan, some 500 miles from the capital, Addis Ababa.

The Egyptian presidency said in a statement after the summit that Ethiopia will not fill the dam unilaterally.

After breakdown of the negotiations that started on June 9, Egypt Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry, on June 19 wrote to the Security Council accusing Ethiopia of continued "intransigence" over filling of the GERD reservoir, which he said potentially constitutes a threat to worldwide peace and security.

The leaders of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia agreed late Friday to return to talks aimed at reaching an accord over the filling of Ethiopia's new hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile, according to statements from the three nations.

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Ms Billene Seyoum, a spokesman for Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, said there was "no divergence from Ethiopia's original position of filling the dam" in their consensus reached on Friday.

Ethiopia has said it intends to start filling the GERD reservoir in July.

Ethiopia has banked its hopes of development on the GERD and has said it has the potential to lift millions of Ethiopians out of poverty.

Egypt, which relies on the Nile for more than 90% of its water supplies and already faces high water stress, fears a devastating impact on its booming population of 100 million.

Its Prime Minister's Office said the three countries had agreed that the Nile and the GERD "are African issues that must be given African solutions". Sudan, which also depends on the Nile for water, has played a key role in bringing the two sides together after the collapse of USA -mediated talks in February.

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The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), set to be Africa's largest hydroelectric project, has been a source of tension in the Nile basin ever since Ethiopia broke ground on it almost a decade ago.

South Africa, the current chair of the African Union and which led the Africa group, says there are few issues unresolved, arguing that the matter should first be taken up by the continental body before going to the UN.

Since June 9, the three countries have been holding regular video meetings to discuss issues related to the filling and operation of the GERD in the presence of three observers from the United States, the EU Commission and South Africa.

Both Egypt and Sudan have appealed to the UN Security Council to intervene in the years-long dispute and help the countries avert a crisis. On the UNSC, China-which has given $16 billion in loans to Ethiopia- has the most at stake in the dam's filling.

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