US talks widen the River Nile dam crack

Tuesday March 10 2020

Water flows through Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam

Water flows through Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia on September 26, 2019. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

TESFA-ALEM TEKLE
By TESFA-ALEM TEKLE
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ADDIS ABABA

Ethiopia and Egypt have differed bitterly on the status of the negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), threatening the attainment of an ultimate solution.

It began last Thursday after the Arab League endorsed Egypt’s position that negotiations had been finalised and that what remained was signatures on a draft that had suggested Egypt’s rightful water share would be sustained.

Addis Ababa reacted angrily, accusing the Arab League of endorsing incomplete negotiations. But Egypt yet reacted by rejecting the Addis Ababa view.

The war of words between the two countries originated from talks that had been organised by the US government and the World Bank, bringing together Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt to discuss how to fill up the dam, while ensuring sufficient water flows to Cairo.

Ethiopia skipped the meeting in Washington, but Cairo initialled on a draft document, indicating negotiations had been completed.

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Cairo further accused Ethiopia of “deliberately” hindering the path of negotiations.

The Arab League Foreign ministers subsequently issued a resolution that rejected any form of “infringement against Egypt’s historical rights to the water resources of the River Nile”.

They were citing the controversial massive power plant, which Egypt fears could eventually diminish its water shares.

All the Arab League member states, except Sudan, endorsed Cairo's position. Sudanese officials expressed “reservations”, saying that the resolution does not serve Khartoum’s interests and further cautioned it might lead to Arab-Ethiopian confrontations.

Citing Sudanese officials, the Alarabiya newspaper said Khartoum argued that "such a joint statement was not in the best interest of Sudan”.

Addis Ababa insists the multibillion dam will not significantly affect Egypt and Sudan, but instead will benefit them with supply of cheap and renewable hydro power.

The dam, poised to be Africa’s largest upon completion, will have capacity of generating 6,000 megawatts of electricity.

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