Egyptian presidency announced that the US President Donald Trump assured his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi that Washington is continuing its mediation in negotiations on the Renaissance Dam, which Ethiopia is building on the banks of the Nile River, until the signing of an agreement.
The gigantic dam that will become, once completed, the largest source of hydropower in Africa, has caused tension between Addis Ababa and Cairo since Ethiopia began constructing it in 2011.
Last year, the US Treasury Department interviened to facilitate talks between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan, which is also located at the river’s estuary, after Al-Sisi called on his ally Trump to intervene.
A statement issued by the Egyptian presidency said that “President Trump affirmed the US administration’s continued efforts to coordinate with Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia regarding this vital file until the three countries finish signing the agreement on the Renaissance Dam This issue was discussed in a telephone call that Al-Sisi received from Trump.
The statement indicated that the US President expressed his appreciation for Egypt’s signature of the agreement’s initial understandings that resulted from the rounds of negotiations on the Renaissance Dam in Washington during the past months.
For his part, Al-Sisi stressed that “Egypt continues to give this issue the utmost attention in defending the interests of the Egyptian people, their resources and their future.”
The Egyptian President expressed “great appreciation for the role played by the US administration in sponsoring the tripartite negotiations on the Renaissance Dam, and the great attention paid by President Trump in this regard.”
Last week, the US Treasury issued a statement announcing that an agreement had been reached, calling on Ethiopia to sign it “as soon as possible.”
Ethiopia, which was absent from the last round of talks, denied reaching an agreement and expressed “disappointment” with the US statement.
On Tuesday, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Guido Andargacho announced that Ethiopia would continue in US-mediated talks while warning Washington against speeding up the process per cent trying to influence its results.
“We believe that the latest US statement lacked diplomacy,” he said.
Among the three countries involved in the negotiations, only Egypt has expressed its support for the agreement, describing it as “fair and balanced.”
Ethiopia believes that the dam is necessary to provide electricity supply and endorse the country’s development. At the same time, Egypt fears that the project will affect its water share from the Nile, which provides 90 percent of the water it needs for drinking and irrigation.
One of the sticking points that hindered the advancement of the talks is filling with the dam reservoir, which can hold 74 billion cubic meters of water.
Cairo fears that Addis Ababa will accelerate the filling of the reservoir, which will reduce the flow of water to the river’s estuary.
The White Nile and the Blue Nile meet in Khartoum, and the river continues its flow north to Egypt and into the Mediterranean Sea.
Ethiopia pulled out of talks on its disputed $5 billion hydropower project being held in Washington in February 26th.
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 on February 26th, said it would not take part in the meeting because consultations with stakeholders at home were still incomplete, according to local broadcaster Fana.
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.
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.