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Dam talks at an impasse

Dam talks at an impasse

The latest round of discussions between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan on the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) under construction on the Blue Nile is reported to have reached an impasse. The breaking point came after Ethiopia accused Egypt’s request to delay the water filling process of the USD 5 billion GERD located 40 km off the Ethio-Sudanese border, western Ethiopia.

According to Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Seleshi Bekele (PhD), Ethiopia intends to fill the dam this coming summer, while Egypt has requested for a delay by 12 to 21 years.

“Egypt comes up with a new matrix that sets the time of the filling of the dam. That is unacceptable,” the Minister said to a hastily arranged press conference in the wee hours of the night inside Skylight hotel. 

According to sources, Ethiopia had been asking to fill the dam in four to seven years, in which the Minister noted progress in the negotiations, but many differences still need to be ironed out.

The latest effort to resolve the issue was first proposed by the United States and the World Bank. The representatives of the three nations had met in Washington DC, including an audience with the US President Donald Trump and put a January 15 deadline for the negotiations.

With little success in Addis Ababa, the three are to fly to Washington to present their progress and look for other options to resolve the issue by way of mediation.

Ethiopia, which is fast moving from an aid dependent nation to one that can sustain itself from development as well as economic progress, continues to see the Blue Nile as a strategy to help a population that has shortages in energy and water.

However, Egypt sees it as a survival issue, where 90 percent of its irrigation and drinking waters come from this body of water and one protected under the 1959 water-sharing treaty calls it “its historical right.”