Ethiopia will not attend this week’s latest round of US-brokered talks on a disputed Nile dam project with Egypt and Sudan, the country’s water ministry has announced.
Ethiopia will skip the talks in Washington, DC on Thursday and Friday “because the country’s delegation hasn’t concluded its consultation with relevant stakeholders”, the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy announced on its Facebook page on Wednesday.
“The decision has been communicated with the US Treasury secretary.”
A final deal on the massive Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam was expected this month, but US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on his Ethiopia visit last week, said an agreement may now take months as “a great deal of work remains”.
The dispute over what will be Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam pits Ethiopia’s desire to pull millions out of poverty against Egypt’s concerns over critical water supply.
Ethiopia’s announcement came amid widespread concerns in the country that its delegation was pressured by the US to reach a deal on the $4.6bn dam that is nearing completion.
The US became involved in the talks at Egypt’s invitation.
“Ethiopia will never sign on an agreement that will surrender its right to use the Nile River,” the Ethiopian ambassador to the US, Fitsum Arega, said on Twitter.
Egypt wants the dam to be filled more slowly to reduce restrictions on the flow of the Nile. It says the dam is needed to provide electricity for development. In January, it announced it will start filling the dam – now more than 70 percent complete – in July at the start of the rainy season.