A long-awaited meeting last week between the leaders of Egypt and Ethiopia produced no breakthrough in tensions over a mega dam on the Nile, with Ethiopia’s prime minister saying he had rejected Egypt’s call for the World Bank to act as arbitrator in the dispute.
Egypt fears for its water security after negotiations with Ethiopia and Sudan broke down in November over how to conduct technical studies on the impact of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a 6GW hydroelectric scheme Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn met in Cairo over 17-18 January, after two months of mounting alarm in Egypt.
Desalegn returned home on Friday, and the Ethiopian News Agency reported him as insisting that the three countries can resolve disputes by themselves.
"Seeking professional support is one thing; transferring it to an institution is another thing. So we told them that this is not acceptable with our side," Desalegn said, reports Reuters.
The World Bank had previously signalled its willingness to participate in talks, newspaper Egypt Independent reported.
For his part, after the meeting, Egypt’s al-Sisi appeared to take a conciliatory stance, pledging not to let differences over the dam ruin relations with Ethiopia.
Egypt relies on the Nile for much of its water and fears the dam will restrict its flow. Ethiopia insists it will have no negative impact.
In September 2016 Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia agreed that French consultants BRL and Artelia would carry out studies on GERD’s impact on the flow of the Nile.
However, in November last year negotiations broke down between the three parties over the studies, with Egypt’s water minister accusing Sudan and Ethiopia of trying to direct them in a way that would "render them useless".
Egypt’s hands appear to be tied after it signed a cooperation deal on the dam in 2015.
Now more than half built by Italian contractor Salini Impregilo, the hydroelectric plant will have an installed capacity of 6,000 MW – more than double Ethiopia’s current generating capacity – and is central to Ethiopia’s plan to be a net power exporter to the electricity-starved continent.
Image: The $4bn Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be the largest dam in Africa when complete (Salini Impregilo)