Ethiopia defiantly starts second filling of disputed Nile dam

Egypt 'categorically' rejects the move, saying it's a breach of international law

This handout picture taken on July 20, 2020, and released by Adwa Pictures on July 27, 2020, shows an aerial view Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile River in Guba, northwest Ethiopia. Ethiopia said on July 21 it had hit its first-year target for filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a concrete colossus 145 metres (475 feet) high that has stoked tensions with downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan.
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Ethiopia has started the second filling of its disputed Nile dam's reservoir, despite a lack of agreement with Egypt and Sudan, the Egyptian Water Ministry said on Monday.

Addis Ababa has for months threatened to begin the second filling of the reservoir, angering the two downstream nations who want a binding agreement on the dam's operation.

The ministry said the news was relayed in an official letter sent by Ethiopian Water Minister Seleshi Bekele to his Egyptian equivalent, Mohammed Abdel Atty.

Mr Abdel Atty wrote back stating Egypt’s “categorical rejection of this unilateral move,” which he called a breach of international laws governing projects on transnational rivers.

He said these laws protected Egypt’s rights and water interests.

The Egyptian ministry said Mr Abdel Atty’s response was sent to the president of the UN Security Council, which is due on Thursday to review the dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

“It’s a grave development that exposes once again the ill intentions of Ethiopia and its insistence on taking unilateral actions to impose a fait accompli, and operate the dam without an agreement that safeguards the interests of all three nations and limits damage on the two downstream nations,” the ministry said.

Egypt fears that the dam would significantly reduce its share of Nile water, on which it depends for more than 90 per cent of its fresh water needs.

Its ally Sudan is concerned that flooding and disruption of its own Nile dams would occur if Ethiopia did not co-ordinate with Khartoum on the operations of the dam, which is about 20 kilometres from its eastern border.

A decade of negotiations has failed to produce the legally binding agreement sought by Cairo and Khartoum, which would include a system to deal with persistent drought and future disputes.

Ethiopia has insisted that guidelines should suffice. The last round of negotiations broke down in April.

Updated: July 8th 2021, 8:32 AM
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