Egyptian president calls for US to support international effort to resolve Nile dam dispute

El Sisi blames Ethiopia for lack of progress on negotiations

FILE PHOTO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attends the opening ceremony of floating bridges and tunnel projects executed under the Suez Canal in Ismailia, Egypt May 5, 2019. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/File Photo
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The US should assume an effective role in an international effort to resolve a dispute over a Nile dam being built by Ethiopia, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi told a senior US envoy on Wednesday.

Mr El Sisi told Jeffrey Feltman, Washington’s special envoy to the Horn of Africa, that Egypt would not accept any harm being done to its water interests.

Egypt is concerned the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam could significantly reduce its share of the Nile’s water, on which it depends for more than 90 per cent of its fresh water needs.

It said such a reduction would wipe out hundreds of thousands of jobs and disrupt the delicate food balance for its 100 million people.

“It is an existential issue to Egypt, which will not accept any harm to come to its water interests,” the Egyptian leader said.

“It is important that the international community shoulders its responsibility in resolving this crisis and it’s vital that an effective American role is assumed in this context.”

Mr El Sisi blamed Ethiopia for the lack of progress on negotiations.

Mr Feltman was in Egypt on Wednesday as part of a three-nation tour that will also take him to Sudan and Ethiopia.

Egypt and Sudan, both downstream Nile nations, have for a decade been negotiating with Ethiopia over the dam but failed to persuade the government in Addis Ababa to enter a legally binding deal that governs the filling and operation of the dam.

They also want a system in place to deal with persistent drought or future disputes.

Ethiopia says guidelines should be sufficient and that it will proceed with a second and a much larger filling of the dam's reservoir in July, regardless of whether an agreement with Cairo and Khartoum is reached.

It also rejected proposals by Egypt and Sudan for a group comprising the US, EU, UN and African Union to mediate in the dispute.

During the Trump administration, the US formulated an agreement to resolve the dispute last year, but Ethiopia refused to sign and accused Washington of bias in favour of Egypt.

The dam, built less than 20 kilometres from the border with Sudan, is expected to generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity on completion.

Ethiopia said the dam would lift millions of its people out of poverty and is central to its development.

Sudan said Ethiopia must share data on the operation and filling of the dam to ensure that work at its own power-generating dams on the Nile was not disrupted, and to guard against flooding.

It rejected a recent Ethiopian offer to share data on the second filling, saying what was needed is a comprehensive agreement and not a one-off gift.