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Ethiopia: ‘We will start filling the Renaissance Dam by autumn’

A general view of the Blue Nile river as it passes through the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), near Guba in Ethiopia, on 26 December 2019. [EDUARDO SOTERAS/AFP via Getty Images]
A general view of the Blue Nile river as it passes through the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), near Guba in Ethiopia, on 26 December 2019. [EDUARDO SOTERAS/AFP via Getty Images]

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced the start of the filling of the Renaissance Dam by next autumn, although no agreement has yet been reached with Egypt after Ethiopia’s withdrawal from the Washington talks.

This was indicated in a statement by the Ethiopian prime minister’s office, on the occasion of the ninth anniversary of the announcement of the dam construction in April 2011.

“Despite the challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic, we expect to see the filling process at the Renaissance Dam for water storage in the early fall,” announced prime minister Ahmed on Wednesday.

The rainy season in Ethiopia starts in June and continues until September.

He added: “If the Ethiopians work together, they will overcome the coronavirus and finish building the Renaissance Dam.”

Ethiopian Minister of Irrigation Seleche Baqli disclosed that his country had already completed 72.4 per cent of construction work.

READ: Egypt’s options in the Renaissance Dam crisis 

He added that his country aims to build the dam to take advantage of its natural right over the Nile, stressing that Ethiopia has no intention of harming the downstream countries.

The US administration made efforts to mediate between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, to contain the escalating tension between the three countries over the Renaissance Dam. After hosting rounds of negotiations, the different parties produced a final draft agreement that was expected to be signed in the presence of the World Bank.

US mediation failed after Addis Ababa announced its objection to the draft final agreement on the Renaissance Dam crisis, after Khartoum submitted observations to the US team on the draft, and only Egypt signed the agreement.

Following objection to the draft agreement, the Ethiopian withdrawal from participation in the final signature was a severe blow to the negotiations.

Ambiguity prevailed on the issue, as the final agreement was not signed by the end of February, after years of negotiations.

Representatives of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia meet to negotiate on the filling and operation of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 8 January 2020. [Mınasse Wondımu Haılu - Anadolu Agency]

Representatives of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia meet to negotiate on the filling and operation of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 8 January 2020. [Mınasse Wondımu Haılu – Anadolu Agency]

Ethiopian withdrawal

On 29 February, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in a statement its decision to participate in the talks and sign the agreement, calling on Ethiopia and Sudan to adhere to the same approach, noting: “Egypt is eager for Sudan and Ethiopia to follow suit in accepting this agreement and signing it themselves as soon as possible, viewing the agreement as fair and balanced and reaching the common interests of all three countries.”

Egypt expressed its regret for Ethiopia’s “unjustified” absence from this meeting at this decisive stage of the negotiations.

For nine years, the dam project has been causing disputes, especially between Ethiopia and Egypt. Cairo is concerned about the potential negative impact of the dam on the flow of its annual share of the Nile River water, amounting to 55.5 billion cubic metres, while Sudan obtains 18.5 billion.

Egypt: Ethiopia’s statements on Renaissance Dam, ’unacceptable insult’

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