Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has warned that “all options are open” after the latest round of talks between his country, Sudan and Ethiopia about a giant dam built by the latter on the Blue Nile ended without progress.
Delegations from the three countries met in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the current chair of the African Union (AU), in an attempt to break the deadlock in negotiations. The talks concluded on Tuesday with no resolution to long-running disputes about the operation and filling of the dam’s reservoir.
“I am telling our brothers in Ethiopia, let’s not reach the point where you touch a drop of Egypt’s water, because all options are open,” el-Sisi said on Wednesday.
“We have witnessed the cost of any confrontation,” he added, referring to past regional conflicts.
Sudan’s irrigation minister also issued a warning on Wednesday, saying his country stood ready to harden its stance in the dispute and lobby afresh at the highest international levels.
“For Sudan, all options are possible, including returning [the matter] to the UN Security Council and hardening policy … [if] Ethiopia embarks on a second filling [of the dam] without agreement,” Yasser Abbas told reporters.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has been a source of tension in the Nile River basin ever since Ethiopia broke ground on it in 2011.
Downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan view the multibillion-dollar project as a threat because of their dependence on the Nile River waters, while Ethiopia considers it essential for its electrification and development.
Ethiopian Water Minister Seleshi Bekele told a news conference on Wednesday that Ethiopia would continue filling the dam’s massive reservoir during the upcoming rainy season, which normally begins in June or July.
“As construction progresses, filling takes place,” Seleshi said. “We don’t deviate from that at all.”
However, Seleshi sought to defuse tensions.
“There is no need to enter an unnecessary war. A war can’t start because of water. Water flows if you fight today, it’ll continue to flow tomorrow,” he told reporters.
Egypt and Sudan, in statements after the Kinshasa meeting, accused Ethiopia of intransigence on restarting negotiations in advance of a second filling of the dam this year.
Ethiopia said on Tuesday it could not enter into an agreement that infringed on its rights to utilise the Nile.
Sudan and Egypt had proposed including the European Union, the United States and the United Nations as mediators in addition to the continuing AU facilitation of the talks.
Both countries said Ethiopia rejected the proposal during the meeting, which Seleshi said was part of an attempt to cause delay, according to state news agency FANA.