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Ethiopia pulls out of US meeting on Nile dam

Ethiopia will not attend talks on its disputed $5 billion hydropower project being held in Washington this weekend, the Water, Irrigation and Energy Ministry said today.

The US-sponsored trilateral talks between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan seek to resolve a dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) being constructed on the Blue Nile, a tributary of the Nile River.

The Ethiopian ministry said in a statement it would not take part in the meeting because consultations with stakeholders at home were still incomplete, according to local broadcaster Fana.

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Egypt opposes the project due to fears that it will stem the flow of the Nile, on which it depends for around 90 per cent of its water supply.

Cairo says the dam will cut its "traditional share" of 55 billion cubic metres of annual flow from the Blue Nile, while Ethiopia maintains the project is necessary for national development to lift millions out of poverty.

Washington has been hosting the trilateral meeting since last November after several months of negotiations between the two countries failed to make any breakthrough.

Construction of the GERD is at 80 per cent right now and will be complete by 2023.

The hydroelectric dam will produce 6,475 megawatts for Ethiopia's domestic and industrial use, as well as for export to neighbouring countries.

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Ethiopia plans to start fill it up over four to seven years starting this July, but Egypt wants the pace to be slowed.

Cairo, though, is making last-ditch efforts to pressure Ethiopia into agreeing to a colonial-era water sharing agreement that gave the lion's share to Egypt and Sudan.

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