Ethiopia pulls out of US meeting on Nile dam

Ethiopia has pulled out of the latest round of US-mediated talks this week intended to produce an agreement with Egypt on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

The surprise move reverses recent progress toward a resolution of tensions between the two countries.

Progress seemed to gain momentum after an opening round of talks was held in Washington, DC in November 2019, hosted by US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and World Bank president David Malpass. 

Further rounds were held in Washington in January and February this year, with the latest producing an outline agreement on the most contentious issue: the speed at which Ethiopia fills the vast reservoir.

A final agreement was due to be signed by the end of this month, with tri-party talks (including Sudan) scheduled for yesterday and today.

But on Wednesday Ethiopia’s ministry of water, irrigation and energy announced on its Facebook page that it would not attend, saying consultations within Ethiopia had not been completed. 

“Ethiopia does not enter into any agreement that would give away its right to use the Nile,” the Ethiopian ambassador to the US, Fitsum Arega, said on Twitter. 

Tensions have been rising since 2011 over the 6GW GERD, set to be Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam, because it pits Ethiopia’s desire for energy security against Egypt’s fears over water security.

Egypt said it would attend the talks in Washington anyway.

Its foreign ministry said Cairo “is committed to the course of negotiations sponsored by the United States and the World Bank,” reports AhramOnline.

It said the talks yesterday and today were intended to put the final touches on the deal for filling and operating the hydropower dam.

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