Africa: Egypt, Ethiopia Agree to Resume Negotiations on Controversial Nile Dam

Harare — Egypt and Ethiopia have agreed to finalise an agreement over Ethiopia’s contentious Blue Nile mega-dam within four months, marking a breakthrough after years of tensions between the two nations, according to AFP.

Since Ethiopia began construction on the enormous U.S.$4,2 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in 2011, Egypt has been concerned that the project may reduce the amount of water it receives from the Nile.

However, a joint statement released by the Egyptian president indicated that Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi discussed methods to break the present impasse in discussions over the project in Cairo. Within four months, they decided “to initiate expedited negotiations to finalise the agreement between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan on the filling” of the dam and its operation.

The two presidents got together on the sidelines of an African summit of neighbours of the war-torn Sudan hoping to put an end to the strife that has raged there for almost three months.

At the conference’s opening session on July 13, a VOA report says, Sissi told regional leaders that everyone in attendance seemed to recognise the urgency of finding a swift resolution to the Sudan issue. He expressed appreciation to the leaders for their remarks at the conference, which show a profound grasp of the seriousness of the Sudan crisis and an interest in taking the required action to end it. Sisi said that the war is most severely affecting Sudan’s seven neighbors, who “must unite their efforts and political positions to create the climate for a solution”.

Sudan was not a party to the negotiations between Sisi and Ahmed, but Mubarak Ardol, a former rebel commander who is said to be a close supporter of the Sudanese army, later tweeted his support for the tentative dam agreement. “Although we are absent but our full support to this bilateral statement on GERD, Sudan for sure will join soon to make it trilateral agreement without outside mediators,” read the tweet.

The filling and operation of the dam have been the subject of protracted discussions since 2011, but no agreement has been reached between Ethiopia and its downstream neighbours. Egypt, which depends on the Nile for 97% of its water demands, has long seen the construction as an existential danger.