Disagreement mars fresh talks on Ethiopia’s Nile dam

Egypt and Ethiopia issued contradictory statements at the weekend on new talks held last week over the $4bn Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile.

The dam has been a source of rising tension between the two countries because it pits Ethiopia’s desire for development against Egypt’s fears over water security.

Ethiopia plans to start filling the reservoir next month, but Egypt objects to the speed of Ethiopia’s filling schedule.

A new round of video-conference talks started 9 June after Ethiopia skipped US-brokered negotiations in Washington in February.

On Saturday Egypt’s water ministry said Ethiopia produced a "deeply troubling document that is both technically unsound and legally inadequate".

"This text is clearly an attempt to establish a fait accompli," a ministry spokesman told reporters.

He added: "Ethiopia’s position is that Egypt and Sudan should either sign a text that would make them hostages to Ethiopia’s will and whim, or accept Ethiopia’s decision to unilaterally fill the GERD."

But the Ethiopian water ministry claimed the talks had been fruitful, and that the countries, which include Sudan, had "reached understanding on the first stage filling, volume of environmental flow, guidelines for first stage filling and the approach to drought management rules".

A statement from the Ethiopian ministry said: "The truth is we have made progress and if the ongoing negotiation is to falter it is only because of Egypt’s obstinacy to maintain a colonial based water allocation agreement that denies Ethiopia and all the upstream countries their natural and legitimate rights."

The ministry said talks would reconvene today.

Photograph: Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during a Russia-Africa Summit, October 2019 (The Kremlin/CC BY 4.0)

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