UNGA 2020: Ethiopia has 'no intention' of using dam to harm Egypt or Sudan

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed says he is committed to finding amicable solution

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Ethiopia has “no intention” of harming Sudan or Egypt with a giant hydropower dam on the Blue Nile, which has caused a bitter dispute between the three countries, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told the UN on Friday.

Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan failed to strike a deal on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam before Ethiopia began filling the reservoir behind the wall in July.

But the three states have returned to mediation led by the African Union.

"I want to make it abundantly clear that we have no intention to harm these countries," Mr Abiy told the 193-member UN General Assembly in a recorded video.

"We are steadfast in our commitment to addressing the concerns of downstream countries and reaching a mutually beneficial outcome in the context of the ongoing, AU-led process."

Talks have faltered over a demand from Egypt and Sudan that any deal be legally binding, a way to resolve disputes and how to manage the dam during periods of reduced rainfall or drought.

Egypt says it is dependent on the Nile for more than 90 per cent of its scarce fresh water supplies and fears the dam could have a devastating effect on its economy.

Mr Abiy told the UN that the project contributed to the conservation of water, "which would otherwise have been lost to evaporation in downstream countries".

"What we are essentially doing is to meet our electricity demands from one of the cleanest sources of energy," he said.

"We cannot afford to continue keeping more than 65 million of our people in the dark."

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi expressed his concern about the project when he addressed the UN on Tuesday.

"The Nile must not be monopolised by one state," Mr El Sisi said. "For Egypt, the Nile water is an existential matter.

"This, however, does not mean that we want to undermine the rights of our brothers and sisters, sharing with us the Nile Basin.

"Nevertheless, it is unacceptable for the negotiations to continue forever in an attempt to impose the realities on the ground."