Egypt says talks on Ethiopia's dam resumed in Addis Ababa

Last month's meeting between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia ended without agreement

Ethiopia is hosting Egypt and Sudan for another round of talks on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile. AFP
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Egypt said that another round of talks on Ethiopia's dam on the river Nile began in Addis Ababa on Saturday, weeks after meetings in Cairo ended without a breakthrough.

Ministers and delegations from downstream countries Egypt and Sudan are participating with Ethiopia in the talks, according to Egypt's Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or Gerd, has been the source of a dispute between Ethiopia and its northern neighbours for more than a decade.

The latest round followed a meeting held in Cairo on August 27 and 28, which ended without agreement. Egypt said Ethiopia's position had “not tangibly changed”.

Cairo and Khartoum insist that Addis Ababa should enter a legally binding agreement on how it will fill and operate the dam, which they fear could reduce their share of Nile water and hurt agriculture.

But Ethiopia maintains that recommendations, rather than a binding agreement, should suffice and insists that the dam and its operation are matters of national sovereignty.

It has also sought to reassure the two downstream nations that no harm would come to them from the dam, which is built on the Blue Nile close to the Sudanese border.

Hani Sewilam, Egypt's Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, said Cairo would take part in the talks with seriousness and goodwill.

“The aim is to reach a mutually beneficial and balanced agreement that takes into account [Egypt's] national interests, ensures its water security, and to safeguard the rights of the Egyptian people, while also advancing the interests of Ethiopia and Sudan,” Mr Sewilam said.

He said that Ethiopia's unilateral resumption of the Gerd reservoir filling, in the absence of an agreement that governs the rules of filling and operation, breaks the 2015 Agreement on Declaration of Principles between the three countries.

“This kind of unilateral action, which represents a violation of international law, has cast a negative shadow over the continuing negotiation process and poses a threat to its success,” he added.

How Ethiopia's dam is threatening Egypt's water supplies

How Ethiopia's dam is treating Egypt's Nile water access

Egypt, the Arab world's most populous nation, fears that the dam would reduce its share of the Nile's waters and subsequently wipe out hundreds of thousands of jobs in its vast agricultural sector, disrupting its delicate food balance at a time of rising prices and rapid population growth.

Ethiopia has maintained that it is well within its rights to build the hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile, which originates in Lake Tana. The tributary provides more than 85 per cent of the Nile's waters.

Updated: September 23, 2023, 10:56 AM