The United States has suspended aid to Ethiopia over the filling of its disputed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) without an accord with Egypt and Sudan, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, quoting a State Department official.
The official, who was not authorised to speak publicly about the matter and asked not to be identified, said President Donald Trump’s administration is increasingly concerned about the lack of progress in negotiations between the three countries.
He said the US government is working with the three countries to facilitate an agreement that balances their interests.
The US had brokered talks between the three sides late last year to break the years-long deadlock in negotiations, but failed to secure signatures from the three countries on a draft deal.
Washington stressed to Ethiopia that the filling of the 6,000-megawatt dam "should not take place without an agreement”.
Egypt initialed the deal drafted by the US but Ethiopia refused to sign.
Addis Ababa announced in July that 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 of whom sought a legally binding agreement before the dam’s filling.
The State Department official’s comments to Bloomberg confirm a report by Foreign Policy magazine on US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo approving a plan in late August to suspend some foreign aid to Ethiopia over the dam dispute.
US officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter told Foreign Policy last week that the decision made by Pompeo could affect up to $130 million in foreign aid to Ethiopia, adding that the finalised cuts could amount to less than $130 million, however.
The report prompted Ethiopia to ask for clarification from the US on the signalled cuts.
"We have asked for clarification on reports of the United States' decision not to give the $130 million it assigned to Ethiopia," Fitsum Arega, Ethiopia’s ambassador to the US, wrote on Twitter earlier this week.
The reported aid cuts come as negotiations sponsored by the African Union (AU) between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan ended in deadlock last week after the three sides failed to reach consensus over the legal and technical points of contention to be included in a preliminary integrated agreement on GERD.
The three countries' technical and legal committees were scheduled to come up with a unified draft from a collective report of the three capitals' proposals to be presented last week to South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa, the current AU chair, but failed to reach a consensus.
The three countries agreed to send a letter individually to the AU president expressing their vision for the next stage of talks, according to a statement by the Egyptian irrigation and water resources ministry following the collapse of talks, which did not provide details on when the letters would be sent.
The AU-sponsored talks are observed by the US, the EU, the AU and the AU Commission.
The nearly completed $5 billion dam has been a source of contention between the three countries.
Cairo fears the project will significantly cut its crucial water supplies from the River Nile, while Sudan has concerns on how the reservoir will be managed.
Ethiopia says the massive project, which it hopes will make it Africa’s largest power exporter, is key to its development efforts.