Ethiopia said on Friday that attempts by the US and the World Bank to pressure Addis Ababa into signing what it described as a “lopsided” deal on its giant hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile would damage tripartite negotiations with Egypt and Sudan.
Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan had been expected to sign an agreement over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) during talks mediated by the US and the World Bank in February but Ethiopia skipped the meeting and only Egypt initialled the deal. Addis Ababa accused Washington at the time of favouring Egypt.
Renewed African Union-sponsored talks over the multi-billion project launched last month between the three countries, which the US and the EU attended as observers, stumbled earlier this week after Egypt called for the suspension of meetings for internal consultations after Addis Ababa proposed new draft of filling guidelines.
“US pressure on Ethiopia in the GERD tripartite talks negatively impacts the bilateral relations between the two countries,” said Dina Mufti, a spokesman for the Ethiopian foreign ministry, according to the Ethiopian Press Agency.
“Not only do the US and World Bank’s acts hurt the bilateral relations, they also damage the ongoing trilateral talks,” he said. “No pressure would halt the construction of the dam. Ethiopia has resolve to realize its flagship project.”
Egypt said earlier this week a draft proposal put forward by Ethiopia lacked guidelines on the operation of the dam, any elements indicating a binding deal, or a legal mechanism to settle disputes.
Addis Ababa announced last month it had achieved its first-year target for the filling of the dam’s reservoir due to the rainfall season. The move was condemned by Cairo and Khartoum -- both have sought a legally binding agreement before the dam is filled.
Egypt sent a letter on Wednesday to South Africa, which currently chairs the AU, reaffirming Cairo’s rejection of Ethiopia’s “unilateral” initial filling of the GERD and the new Ethiopian draft proposal.
In its letter, Cairo said the Ethiopian proposal, presented on Tuesday, violates directives by the AU in July calling on the three countries to swiftly finalise a legally binding agreement.
Sudan threatened to withdraw from the AU-sponsored talks if Ethiopia insisted on linking an agreement on the dam’s filling to negotiating a deal on sharing the waters of the Blue Nile.
The Ethiopian spokesman said during a media briefing Friday that his country remains committed to the talks.
“Ethiopia is fully committed to resuming discussions and negotiations. There is no other way than conducting peaceful negotiations and peaceful dialogue to resolve the dispute.”
The nearly $5 billion mega-dam, being built around 15 from the Ethiopian border with Sudan, has been a source of tension between the three nations. Cairo fears the project will significantly cut its water supplies from the Nile River, while Sudan fears it could endanger the safety of its own dams.
Ethiopia says the massive project, which it hopes will make it Africa’s largest power exporter, is key to its development efforts..