Tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia have been given another chance to ease after the two countries and Sudan resumed talks over Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Ethiopian Dam (GERD), a major hydroelectric scheme Ethiopia is building on a tributary of the Nile.
The heads of the three countries gave themselves two weeks to resolve all outstanding issues during an online summit on Friday, 26 June convened by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (pictured), who this year became chairman of the African Union (AU).
The AU has now assumed leadership of the process of resolving disputes about the dam.
Tensions between the two countries have been rising since Ethiopia started work on the GERD in 2011, as it pits Ethiopia’s desire for development against Egypt’s fears over water security.â€¨â€¨Egypt, which relies on the Nile for nearly all its fresh water, objects to the speed of Ethiopia’s plans to fill the large reservoir.
Repeated rounds of negotiations, including talks brokered by the US, have so far failed.
Earlier this month Ethiopia’s foreign minister insisted that his country would start filling the $4.6bn dam’s reservoir on the Blue Nile in July, whether Egypt agrees or not. The minister, Gedu Andargachew, also accused Egypt of "warmongering" over the scheme.Â
The AU’s involvement comes after Egypt’s unsuccessful attempt to involve the UN Security Council in the matter.Â
The summit on Friday was attended by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.
Also attending were the presidents of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Mali.
The AU said it welcomed an undertaking by the three countries involved "to refrain from making any statements, or taking any action that may jeopardise or complicate the AU-led process aimed at finding an acceptable solution on all outstanding matters".
Image: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, pictured, is now leading the process of resolving the dispute over GERD (Palácio do Planalto/CC BY 2.0)