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Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia say talks on disputed dam deadlocked

UPDATED: Sun., Jan. 10, 2021

Associated Press

CAIRO — Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia failed to achieve a breakthrough in the African Union-led talks to revolve their years-long dispute over the controversial dam that Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, the three countries announced on Sunday.

Foreign and irrigation ministers of the three nations met online for the second time in a week in efforts to find an agreed approach to resume their talks focused on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam.

Sunday’s meeting, held over videoconference, failed to find common ground to more forward, “because of differences over how to resume the talks and procedural aspects related to the negotiating process,” Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Cairo and Addis Ababa rejected the Sudanese proposal, Egypt’s foreign ministry said.

Ethiopia’s foreign ministry also said Sudan on Sunday rejected a proposal by South African to meet separately with AU experts, insisting on expanding the role of the experts first.

Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas said his government insists on maximizing the role of AU experts to have them facilitate the negotiations and bridge the gaps between the three countries, according to Sudan’s state-run SUNA news agency.

In November, Sudan boycotted talks called by South African, the current chairman of the African Union, and argued that the negotiating approach to resolve the dispute proved unfruitful.

Key questions in the negotiations remain on how much water Ethiopia will release downstream if a multi-year drought occurs and how the three countries would settle any future disputes. Egypt and Sudan call for a legally binding agreement on the dam’s filling and operation, while Ethiopia insists on guidelines.

Ethiopia is building the dam on the Blue Nile, which joins the White Nile in Sudan to become the Nile River, and about 85% of the river’s flow originates from Ethiopia. Officials hope the dam, now more than three-quarters complete, will reach full power-generating capacity in 2023, helping pull millions of its people out of poverty.

Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country with over 100 million people, called the dam an existential threat and worries that it would reduce its share of Nile waters. The country relies almost entirely on the Nile to supply water for agriculture and its people.

Sudan, in the middle between Ethiopia and Egypt, warries that the dam would affect its own dams, though it stands to benefit from access to possible cheap electricity.

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