Officials from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan announced they have cleared the way for the filling and operation of a disputed multibillion-dollar dam being built by the Ethiopian government on the Nile River.
In a joint statement issued after four days of talks in Washington, DC, the foreign ministers and water resources officials of the three Northeastern African countries said on Friday they had agreed on a schedule for filling the dam, dubbed the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), among other key issues.
“The ministers have instructed their technical and legal teams to prepare the final agreement,” the statement read, “for a signing of the three countries by the end of February 2020.”
The three countries “reaffirmed the importance of transboundary cooperation in the development of the Blue Nile to improve the lives of the people of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.”
Ethiopia says the dam – which will be the largest in Africa and is located near its border with Sudan – is crucial for its growing economy. It began the massive project in 2010 as part of a plan to expand its power exports.
Egypt fears the project, now 70 percent complete, will disrupt the river that covers 90 percent of its needs for irrigation and drinking water.
The US Treasury Department has been leading the talks after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi sought intervention from Donald Trump, his US counterpart and close ally.
The White House said Trump on Friday spoke by telephone about the negotiations with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Trump “expressed optimism that an agreement on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam was near and would benefit all parties involved”, the White House said in a statement.
The points agreed to on Friday provide mechanisms addressing some of Egypt’s concerns, including how to fill the dam during periods of drought, and how to operate the power plant in the long term during droughts.
The ministers also discussed and agreed to finalise a mechanism for the annual and long-term operation of the dam, a coordination mechanism, and provisions for dispute resolution and information sharing.
Finally, they agreed to address dam safety and pending studies on the environmental and social impacts of the GERD.