Ethiopia’s mega dam talks continue, yet no deal with Egypt

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In Cairo, a two-day round of negotiations involving Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan concluded on Tuesday without resolving their prolonged dispute concerning Ethiopia’s construction of a large dam on the Blue Nile. This dam has raised concerns about regional water security, according to the neighboring countries.

Egypt’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation has announced that the upcoming round of talks will take place in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Previous negotiations held in August, which had been on hold since April 2021, did not yield any substantial progress. Subsequently, another round of talks took place in Addis Ababa in September, also concluding without reaching a resolution to the dispute.

Ethiopia’s Water and Irrigation Ministry stated the country’s position remained unchanged. Chief negotiator for Ethiopia, Sileshi Bekele, who is also ambassador to the United States, stated, “there has been limited progress in our talks so far, and we await the next round of negotiations in December”.

Between the talks in August and September, Addis Ababa announced the completion of the fourth filling of the dam’s 74 cubic-kilometer reservoir. This milestone achievement means the dam is now near completion.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, celebrated this accomplishment, noting that it was achieved “despite external pressure,” as he conveyed on the platform formerly known as Twitter, now referred to as platform X.

During the summer, Prime Minister Abiy and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi agreed to resume negotiations regarding the dam, with the aim of reaching a binding agreement on both its filling and operation.

Egypt has consistently emphasized the need for Ethiopia to enter into a binding agreement governing the operation and filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renascence Dam. Conversely, Ethiopia has maintained that it is willing to enter into agreement that considers its rightful share of the Nile, which had been denied by an unfair status quo prevailing for more than half a century.

Egypt is concerned that the dam’s construction could diminish its share of the Nile’s waters, potentially leading to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs in its agricultural sector. This could disrupt the country’s delicate food balance at a time of rising prices and rapid population growth.

Ethiopia, on the other hand, argues that it has the legitimate right to construct the hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile, which originates in Lake Tana, as this tributary contributes over 85 percent of the Nile’s waters. In addition, Ethiopia’s growing economy and population will require significant investment in energy production, of which hydropower is expect to be central.

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