Ethiopia sees the massive dam on the Nile as essential for its electrification and development, but Egypt sees it as an existential threat
Sudan is to join a new round of talks with Egypt and Ethiopia Sunday in a bid to resolve a long-running dispute over a huge Ethiopian dam on the Blue Nile, state media reported.
The three countries have held multiple rounds of talks since Ethiopia broke ground on the project in 2011 but they have so far failed to produce an agreement on the filling and operation of the vast reservoir behind the 145-metre (475-foot) tall dam.
The last discussions, held by video-conference in early November, broke up without making any headway.
Late last month, Egypt called in Ethiopia’s charge d’affaires after its foreign ministry spokesman claimed the dam dispute had become a welcome distraction from domestic problems for the Cairo government.
Sudan’s state news agency SUNA said that officials from current African Union chair South Africa would be involved in the new round of talks.
Citing an unnamed official, SUNA said Sudan would propose granting African Union experts a “bigger role” in the negotiations for a binding agreement on the dam’s filling and operation.
The European Union, among the observers of the Nile dam talks, welcomed the upcoming talks in a statement saying they offer “an important opportunity for progress” toward a deal.
The EU also urged “all the parties to show the political will to engage in this round of talks in a constructive and open minded spirit”.
Cairo has expressed fears that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will severely reduce the Nile’s flow, with devastating effects for the more than 97 million Egyptians dependent on it.
Ethiopia says the hydroelectric power produced at the dam is vital to meet the power needs of its even larger population.
It insists downstream countries’ water supplies will not be affected.
Sudan, which suffered deadly floods last summer when the Blue Nile reached its highest level since records began more than a century ago, hopes that the new dam will help regulate the river’s flow.
The Blue Nile, which meets the White Nile in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, provides the great majority of the combined Nile’s flow through northern Sudan and Egypt to the Mediterranean.