Dam dispute: Ethiopia to miss latest US talks with Egypt

Progress on the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in July 2016. The dam has been completed, however, a new dispute ensues between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan at the rate at which the dam should be filled. (Photo: Middle East Monitor)

The Ethiopian Ministry of Water says the country will skip the latest round of US-mediated talks later this week with Sudan and Egypt over a disputed Nile dam project.

The ministry, in a statement on Facebook on Wednesday (Feb. 26), said the series of talks on Thursday and Friday will be missed “because the country’s delegation hasn’t concluded its consultation with relevant stakeholders.”

The meetings were scheduled to be held in Washington DC, however, Ethiopia further noted that its “decision has been communicated with the US Treasury secretary.”

A final deal on the massive Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam had been expected this month, but US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in his Ethiopia visit last week, said that an agreement now might take months as “a great deal of work remains.”

The dispute over what will be Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam pits Ethiopia’s desire to pull millions out of poverty against Egypt’s concerns over critical water supply.

The announcement came amid widespread concerns in Ethiopia that its delegation has been pressured by Washington to reach a deal on the US$4.6 billion dam that is nearing completion.

The US became involved in the talks after Egypt’s invitation, as the north African country wants the dam to be filled more slowly to reduce restrictions on the flow of the Nile.

Ethiopia, on the other hand, argues that the dam is needed to provide electricity for development. In January it announced that it will start filling the dam, now more than 70% complete, in July at the start of the rainy season.