Trump intervenes in dispute over Ethiopia’s Nile dam

A potential route through the impasse between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) under construction on a tributary of the Nile River has emerged after the countries involved met in Washington, with US president Donald Trump participating.

The meeting of foreign ministers had been scheduled with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and World Bank president David Malpass, but Trump’s involvement took some by surprise since it was not publicly scheduled, reports VOA. 

"Just had a meeting with top representatives from Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan to help solve their long running dispute on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, one of the largest in the world, currently being built," Trump tweeted Wednesday, adding: "The meeting went well and discussions will continue during the day!"

Trump’s involvement will be seen as a victory for Egypt, which has called for help from other countries in its long-running dispute with Ethiopia over how quickly the vast reservoir of GERD will be filled.

Egypt fears that filling it on Ethiopia’s timetable of three years would dangerously cut the flow of the Nile, which Egypt relies on almost exclusively for fresh water. It prefers a 10-year time frame.

Years of talks have failed to produce an agreement since a trilateral Declaration of Principles was signed in 2015.

After meeting with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, which is also downstream of GERD, the treasury department released a joint statement saying the ministers agreed to try to find a solution by 15 January 2020, and would attend two further meetings in Washington on 9 December and 3 January. 

If an agreement is not reached by 15 January, the ministers would bring in an international mediator, according to Article 10 of the 2015 Declaration of Principles, reports Deutsche Welle.

In between the Washington visits, it was agreed that the countries’ water ministers would hold four technical meetings, with the US and World Bank attending as observers.

The statement, signed by foreign ministers Sameh Hassan Shoukry of Egypt, Gedu Andargachew of Ethiopia and Asma Mohamed Abdalla of Sudan, acknowledged the importance of the Nile to the countries, and "reaffirmed their joint commitment to reach a comprehensive, cooperative, adaptive, sustainable, and mutually beneficial agreement on the filling and operation" of the GERD.

Photograph: Foreign ministers pose for photograph with US president Donald Trump on 6 November 2019 (From the Twitter feed of Donald Trump)

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