Foreign and irrigation ministers from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia will meet on Tuesday 28 January in the United States (US)’s capital city of Washington DC to discuss the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, local media reported yesterday.
The meeting is set to be attended by the US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, and the World Bank (WB)’s president.
Last week, technical and legal experts from the three African countries met in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, with the presence of Mnuchin and the WB president, in preparation for the meeting. During the preparation assembly, the ministers agreed on “joint responsibility for managing possible drought crises” after the dam’s construction.
Ethiopia is building a $5 million dam near the border with Sudan it says will provide the country with much-needed electricity and economic regeneration. Egypt believes that when the dam is filled already scarce water supplies from the Nile will be restricted.
Egypt is almost entirely dependent on Nile water, receiving around 55.5 million cubic metres a year from the river, and believes that filling the dam will affect the water it needs for drinking, agriculture and electricity.
After three-way talks between the African countries failed, they settled in the US as an external mediator.
In November the US-brokered a meeting in Washington, setting 15 January as a deadline for resolving the dispute, which at one point looked set to break into a military conflict between Cairo and Addis Ababa. They agreed on four rounds of negotiations. The first was held in the Ethiopian capital, the second in Cairo and third in Khartoum.
Despite discussions looking up, over Christmas, they stalled again after the third round in the Sudanese capital.
Cairo wants Ethiopia to guarantee Egypt will receive 40 billion cubic metres or more of water from the Nile. Ethiopian Irrigation Minister Seleshi Bekele said Egypt has abandoned this demand, but Egypt insists it hasn’t and issued a statement to this effect.
There is also an unresolved conflict over how fast the dam will be filled, with Egypt fearing if it is filled too quickly, it could affect the electricity generated by the Aswan High Dam. Egypt wants it to be filled over seven years at least, whilst Ethiopia is pushing for four.