Ethiopia demands 'fair and serious' talks to return to negotiating table over disputed Nile dam: Ethiopian FM

Mahmoud Aziz , Tuesday 17 Mar 2020

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu says resolving the long-running dispute with Egypt over its giant dam on the River Nile requires 'strong political will" from Egypt

Nile DAM
Water flows through Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Guba Woreda, Ethiopia , September 26, 2019 (Photo: Reuters)

Ethiopia demands "serious and fair" talks in order to return to the negotiating table with Egypt and Sudan over its giant dam project on the River Nile, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew said.

In an interview with China Global Television Network CGTN, Gedu said resolving the dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD requires a "strong political will" from the Egyptian side.

Tensions between Ethiopia and Egypt over the $4.8 billion dam were building up after Addis Ababa did not attend the latest round of US-sponsored talks held in Washington in late February, which were expected to generate a final deal. It cited the need for more time for further domestic consultations.

Only Egypt initialed an agreement crafted by the US over the filling and operation of the dam, while Ethiopia and Sudan did not.

Ethiopia said it plans to commence filling the dam's reservoir in July, though outstanding issues over the filling and operation of the dam remain unsolved.

"The solution for disagreement again is negotiations. We demand serious and fair talks to take place for us to return to the table once again. The only chance we have is to agree on this. For this, strong political will from the Egyptian side is needed," Gedu said in the interview, a clip of which was published by the foreign ministry on Monday.

Following Ethiopia's absence from the Washington talks, Egypt accused it of deliberately not attending to "hinder the path of negotiations".

Ethiopia hopes the mega project, which is now around 71% complete, will make it Africa's biggest power exporter. But Cairo fears the project will restrict supplies of the Nile waters, on which it is almost entirely dependent.

Gedu said the mega project is key to his country's efforts to eliminate poverty and overcome its acute shortage of electricity.

"In Ethiopia, more than 65 million citizens live without electricity and the investors we are inviting to help us defeat poverty are suffering from insufficient power supply, preventing industries from bearing fruit, and hundreds of factories are affected by this," Gedu said.

"Every year, hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians graduate from high schools and universities, its mandatory to create jobs for these young people," he said. "The key for [resolving] all these problems is found in the completion of Renaissance Dam project."

Gedu emphasized that Ethiopia, nevertheless, never sought to solely benefit from the Nile water.

"Though the source of most of the Nile water can be located in Ethiopia and even with over 85 percent of the water contributed by Ethiopia, Ethiopia not a single day said we have to benefit from this water alone," he said. "The water of the Nile belongs to Ethiopians, Egyptians, Sudanese and people of other Nile basin countries."

"We give full recognition for the right of basin nations to use the water and we properly understand our right of using the Nile water responsibly," Gedu said.

Gedu has slammed the Arab League's push to resolve the row with Egypt over the dam as "unacceptable", after the pan-Arab bloc earlier this month adopted a draft resolution supporting Egypt's stance on the dispute.

Sudan insisted its name be removed from the resolution, saying it "does not serve the spirit of dialogue and negotiations", drawing Cairo's criticism which said Sudan sought to "weaken the effect of the resolution."

"The [Arab] League's intervention and promotion of conflict on a matter that is not even concluded yet between the three countries is unacceptable", the Ethiopian minister said.

The bloc had a chance to use this situation to strengthen ties between the Horn of Africa and the Middle East, he said

"We believe the Arab League can still positively impact the differences between Ethiopia and Egypt. The Arab league should have a role to promote solidarity among countries in the Eastern African region and the Middle East based on mutual cooperation."

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