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US: Egypt, Ethiopia dispute over Renaissance dam escalates

February 20, 2020 at 3:03 am

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Munich, Germany on 15 February 2020 [Abdulhamid Hoşbaş/Anadolu Agency]

The dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam could take “months” to resolve, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned yesterday.

Pompeo told reporters at the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa that the two countries were working on “formulating the terms of a final agreement on the dam”. “A great deal of work remains, but I’m optimistic that over the coming months we can resolve this,” he said.

His comments come as work gets underway to draft the terms of a final agreement on the dam in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

Ethiopian Foreign Minister, Gedu Andargachew, said that there were “outstanding issues that need negotiation.”

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Ethiopia is building a $5 billion dam near the border with Sudan it says will provide the country with much-needed electricity and economic regeneration. Egypt believes it will restrict its access to Nile waters.

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.

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 issues 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.