Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed have agreed to "urgently" resume negotiations on their dispute over a vast Nile dam being built by Addis Ababa, the Egyptian presidency said on Thursday.
The two leaders met in Cairo late the previous day after the Ethiopian leader's arrival to attend a summit of Sudan's neighbours on Thursday.
The summit is aimed at finding ways to end the three-month-old war between the Sudanese army and the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, which has killed thousands and already displaced more than three million.
The statement said the negotiations would be on the filling and operation of the dam, formally known as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or Gerd. It said the negotiations would be concluded in four months, but did not say and where they would be held.
Ethiopia has indicated its commitment during the forthcoming fourth filling of the dam not to cause significant harm to Egypt and Sudan that would impact on the water needs of Egypt and Sudan, said the statement.
Sources told The National earlier this week that Egypt and Ethiopia were expected to resume negotiations over the disputed dam, which Egypt sees as a threat to its vital share of the river's water.
Ethiopia and downstream nations Egypt and Sudan last held talks over the dam in April 2021 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Those broke down when Ethiopia rejected suggestions by Cairo and Khartoum to allow representatives of the US, EU and the World Bank to join the African Union in mediating a settlement of the decade-old dispute.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity and are familiar with the process, said the agreement to resume talks followed months of mediation behind the scenes by Russia and South Africa, two countries wielding considerable leverage in Addis Ababa while maintaining close relations with Cairo.
The sources gave no details on the mediation but said both sides expressed a willingness to make concessions to end the long-running dispute.
News of the resumption of negotiations followed Ethiopia's announcement last month that it was preparing for a fourth filling of the dam.
Egypt maintains that the dam would reduce its share of Nile water, wiping out hundreds of thousands of agricultural jobs and disrupting its delicate food balance at a time of rising prices and a rapid increase in its population.
Cairo's response to the dam has varied over time, from military threats to assurances that only diplomacy would end the dispute.
Both Egypt and Sudan want Ethiopia to enter a legally binding agreement on the operation of the $5 billion dam, built on the Blue Nile – the river's main tributary – about 20km from the border with Sudan.
But Ethiopia insists that recommendations, rather than a binding deal, should suffice. It has occasionally accused Egypt of meddling in its internal affairs or seeking to destabilise it. It has also sought to reassure Egypt and Sudan that no harm would come to them as a result of the dam.