Tripartite Nile dam talks to resume after Trump warning

Monday October 26 2020

An aerial view of the Grand Ethiopian Reinassance Dam on the Blue Nile River in Guba, northwest Ethiopia in this picture taken on July 20, 2020. PHOTO | AFP | ADWA PICTURES


Sudan has said it will hold a meeting on Tuesday with Egypt and Ethiopia on the controversial Nile dam project coming just days after US President Donald Trump warned it could trigger military action.

Prof Yassir Abbas, Sudan’s Irrigation minister, said the country would participate in the tripartite negotiations mediated by the African Union to seek new approaches to end the stalemate that led to the suspension of the talks in August.

Ethiopia at the weekend accused Trump of inciting "war" over the mega-dam after the president on Friday spoke out against the project and said Egypt might destroy it.

Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew summoned US ambassador Michael Raynor to clarify Trump's latest foray into a delicate, long-running dispute over Nile waters between Ethiopia and its downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan. 

"The incitement of war between Ethiopia and Egypt by a sitting US president neither reflects the long-standing partnership and strategic alliance between Ethiopia and the United States, nor is acceptable in international law governing interstate relations," his ministry said.

Trump told reporters on Friday: "It's a very dangerous situation because Egypt is not going to be able to live that way...," and that Cairo could "end up blowing up the dam."


On Saturday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's office defended the dam and said Addis Ababa was committed to AU-led talks that it said had made "significant progress".

Ethiopia, the statement said, would, however, not cave-in to any kind of aggression nor give recognition to rights that are entirely based on colonial treaties. 

“Nonetheless, occasional statements of belligerent threats to have Ethiopia succumb to unfair terms still abound. These threats and affronts to Ethiopia sovereignty are misguided, unproductive, and a clear violation of international law,” the statement reads.

Filling GERD

The US announced last month it was suspending a portion of its financial aid for Ethiopia, citing a lack of progress in talks and Addis Ababa's "unilateral decision" to start filling the dam's reservoir.

The European Union has backed the South African-led AU talks calling for the resumption of talks and their successful completion.

EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Security Josep Borrell said on Saturday that more than 250,000 people living in the Blue Nile basin stand to benefit from a possible agreement based on a consensus on filling the Renaissance Dam.

"Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia can reach an agreement on filling the dam, and now is a time to act, not to increase tensions," Mr Borrell said.

Egypt and Sudan are seeking a legally binding agreement, which guarantees appropriate water flows and a legal mechanism for resolving disputes before the dam is filled and operational.

Ethiopia, in August, celebrated the first phase of filling the dam it had insisted on completing without an agreement.

Egypt depends on the Nile for about 97 percent of its irrigation and drinking water and sees the dam as an existential threat, while Ethiopia views the project as essential for its electrification and development.

- Additional reporting by AFP.