Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia resume Nile mega-dam talks

Ministers from the three African nations engaged in week-long talks brokered by the African Union, the European Union and the World Bank.

Ethiopia views the mega-dam project as essential for its electrification and development [File: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]

Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia have resumed their talks over Addis Ababa’s controversial dam on the Blue Nile river, just over a week after US President Donald Trump warned that Cairo may “blow it up” if disputes are not resolved.

The week-long negotiations, being held via videoconference, started on Sunday and include water ministers from the three countries, as well as representatives from the African Union, the European Union and the World Bank.

The latest round of talks came three months after the suspension of dialogue between the African neighbours over the construction of the $4.6bn mega-dam by Ethiopia.

Previous three-way talks failed to reach an agreement on the filling and operation of the vast reservoir behind the 145-metre (475-foot) tall Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Egypt, which depends on the Nile for about 97 percent of its irrigation and drinking water, sees the dam as an existential threat.

Sudan hopes the dam will help regulate flooding but has also warned that millions of lives would be at “great risk” if Ethiopia unilaterally fills the dam.

Ethiopia, on the other hand, views the project as essential for its electrification and development, and insists that the flow of water downstream will not be affected.

“The three sides agreed to continue discussing the issue through a six-member team, including two representatives from each country,” Sudan’s water ministry said in a statement.

The team, it said, will put “a frame of reference” on the role of experts to facilitate the talks, and will submit its report to the water ministers from the three countries by Wednesday.

In July, Addis Ababa declared that it reached its first-year target of filling the mega-dam’s reservoir, which can hold 74 billion cubic metres (2,600 billion cubic feet) of water.

Last month, US President Trump appeared to suggest that Egypt may destroy the mega-dam, remarks that were seen by Ethiopia as inciting a “war”.

“It’s a very dangerous situation because Egypt is not going to be able to live that way… They’ll end up blowing up the dam,” said the US leader.

Egypt and Sudan, however, have long called for a political solution to the dispute, voicing rejection against any unilateral action by Ethiopia.

The Blue Nile, which rises in the Ethiopian highlands, meets the White Nile flowing from East Africa at the Sudanese capital Khartoum to form the River Nile, traditionally considered to be the world’s longest river.

Source: News Agencies