Talks on Nile River dam to resume on Tuesday

The African Union-led talks begin amid continued tensions Sudan and Egypt have with Ethiopia over the massive hydroelectric dam. Negotiations have been on hold since August.

al-monitor Workers move iron girders from a crane at the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), near Guba in Ethiopia, on Dec. 26, 2019.  Photo by EDUARDO SOTERAS/AFP via Getty Images.

Oct 26, 2020

Negotiations on Ethiopia’s Nile River dam are finally set to resume.

Talks on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) will start up again on Tuesday, the African Union said. The regional body, which is currently chaired by South Africa, mediates the GERD talks.

Ethiopia built the GERD to supply hydroelectric power to its population of more than 100 million. It is located on the Blue Nile River, which flows into the Nile.

The dam is a thorny issue between Ethiopia and the upstream nations Egypt and Sudan. Egypt and Sudan fear that filling the massive dam could dangerously lower the Nile River’s water levels in their countries. Egypt and Sudan, therefore, seek an agreement with Ethiopia before the yearslong process of filling the dam finishes.

This round of negotiations will begin with unresolved tensions. Talks have been on hold for months. In August, Egypt and Sudan walked away from the process over a dispute with Ethiopia’s proposed filling guidelines. Ethiopia controversially announced it started filling the dam in July during the region’s rainy season.

Sudan is cautious heading into Tuesday’s negotiations. Sudanese Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Yasser Abbas told South Africa that Sudan cannot negotiate “in the same ways” as in the past, the state-run Sudan News Agency reported on Monday.

Ethiopia, for its part, continues to view the dam as vital.

“GERD has been an attempt to answer what has been our generations’ quest for an equitable and reasonable utilization of the Abbay,” said the Ethiopian Office of the Prime Minister in a statement, using an alternative name for the Blue Nile.

US President Donald Trump’s comments last week also exacerbated tensions on the dam. Trump said that Egypt could “blow up” the dam while speaking to Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok about Sudan’s recognition of Israel.

“It's a very dangerous situation because Egypt is not going to be able to live that way,” said Trump. “And they’ll end up blowing up the dam.”

Ethiopia condemned the remarks, with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed saying “Ethiopia will not cave in to aggression of any kind” in response.

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