US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman will start an official tour on Tuesday that includes Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan and Eritrea, the US Department of State said, amid growing tensions within the region.
During the tour, Feltman will hold meetings with officials from the four countries as well as from the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU), as according to the state department.
He will also meet with a number of political stakeholders and humanitarian groups.
Feltman’s tour comes as part of the US administration’s “commitment to lead a sustained diplomatic effort to address the interlinked political, security and humanitarian crises in the Horn of Africa,” as according to state department.
The department also said that Feltman will coordinate US policy with the officials across the region to achieve that goal.
Feltman was named a special envoy for the Horn of Africa last month, amid Washington’s strive to step up diplomatic efforts in the region.
Feltman’s tour also comes while tensions have escalated around the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) issue between the two downstream countries of Egypt and Sudan with Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has reiterated its plans to execute the second phase of the massive dam filling - to take place in July - in spite of Egyptian and Sudanese objections due to the absence of a legally-binding agreement on the filling and the operating of the dam.
Egypt and Sudan say they are not against development in Ethiopia and that they do not object the dam's filling but have also highlighted the need to reach a binding deal before the next rainy season.
Previous rounds of AU-sponsored talks to reach a consensus have all been deadlocked.
Last month, Egypt and Sudan sent letters to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to seek the international community’s involvement and to dissuade Ethiopia from taking unilateral action on the GERD. Ethiopia rejected international mediation in this issue and said that it will stick to the AU talks.
Ethiopia also took a hard line on the downstream countries, voicing their rejection of the “colonial agreements” of Nile water shares and declaring it “unacceptable” for Sudan and Egypt to use these historical agreements as reference points while negotiating the GERD crisis.
Feltman’s tour also comes as tensions rose - between Sudan and Ethiopia - over the ownership of the fertile Al-Fashqa region that lies within the Sudanese borders and is inhabited by Ethiopian and Sudanese farmers.
Moreover, the war in the Ethiopian northern Tigray region, fought between Ethiopian National Defence Forces and the region's ruling Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), has entered its sixth month, causing millions of people to face starvation.
The Ethiopian forces are aided by Ethiopian militias and the Eritrean Defence Forces.