Egypt, Ethiopia close ranks in Nile dam talks

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, announced in 2011, is expected to generate more than 6,000 megawatts of power [Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]
Technical teams seeking to end the conflict over Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam along the river Nile appeared headed for a major breakthrough as the second round of talks progressed in Cairo, Egypt on Tuesday.

Observers said Ethiopia and Egypt had ceded ground on their divergent demands and were now looking at how to effect the findings of the tripartite technical committee (Sudan is part of the talks) that led to a falling out in Khartoum in October.

The collapse of the talks led to Egypt and Ethiopia accusing each other of obstinacy amid talk that the conflict could escalate to a full blown war between the two countries.

Russia and then the United States had to intervene at the invitation of Egypt to have the teams return to the negotiating table last month and settle on January 15 as the target date for reaching consensus on resolving the dispute. The date is subject to review, however.

Ethiopia’s water, irrigation and energy minister Seleshi Bekele said Addis Ababa was working to have the dam filled over four to seven years.

This was a pull down from its earlier push for three years and in line with recommendations of the technical teams before differences arose in Khartoum where Egypt demanded the dam be filled over a longer time with a uniform volume of water being excised annually.

Two more meetings of the water ministers are planned under the Washington timelines. If they do not reach an agreement, the talks would be escalated to the heads of government—Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed.