Ethiopia Committed to Participate in US-brokered Dam Negotiation Amid Heightened Tensions

Ethiopia assures that it will continue participating in current the US-brokered Nile dam negotiations as long as it does not harm its national interest. The country affirmed that only negotiation can resolve the current deadlock over the dam, while explaining that dropping out of the US-brokered talks will not be beneficial.

This comes just three days after the country expressed its dismay over the statement of the US that cautioned Ethiopia to refrain from filling and testing its giant dam on Nile before reaching an agreement with Sudan and Egypt.

“During previous meetings, the US has played a big role in narrowing the difference we had with Egypt. We also believe the only solution to break the deadlock over the dam is negotiation,” said Gedu Andargachew, Minister of Foreign Affairs, in a press conference held yesterday at Prime Minister Office in the presence of Sileshi Bekele, Minister of Irrigation and Electricity. “If [that] is going to compromise our national interest, we will undoubtedly pull out,” Gedu adds.

Tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia have been heightened since last week after the latter’s absence from a meeting in Washington last week. While Ethiopia said it needs more time for domestic consultation, Egypt, which believes GERD would reduce its vital share of water, accused Addis Ababa of employing delaying tactics to avoid signing the agreement. Egyptian authorities also said it would use “all means available” to protect the interests of Egyptian.

The US Treasury Department, in its part, said final testing and filling of the dam should not take place without an agreement, while facilitating the preparation of an agreement on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) ‘based on provisions proposed by the legal and technical teams of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan and with the technical input of the World Bank.’

“Egypt and the US want the agreement to be finalized promptly. But we have witnessed that the US is acting beyond its observer role, even going as far as preparing a draft agreement, a situation which is not acceptable,” said Gedu, who expressed his hope that the United States will rectify its ‘mistaken’ statement on GERD. “We wrote a letter to the US expressing our discontent.”

Meanwhile, the US expressed its disappointment after Ethiopia skipped last week’s meeting at Washington.

“We have been trying to bring the parties together. They have made enormous progress. We were incredibly disappointed that Ethiopia did not show up for the last meeting,” Steven Mnuchin, US Treasury Secretary, told a hearing of the US House Ways and Means Committee. “It is an important issue for the entire region. It is obviously a grave concern. There are safety concerns, there are water concerns.”

Additionally, President of the US, Donald Trump, told his Egyptian counterparts, Abdel Fattah al Sisi, in a phone call on March 3, 2020, that Washington will keep up efforts for a deal between Egypt and Ethiopia and Sudan, Reuters reported citing the Egyptian Presidency.

Sileshi, Ethiopia’s Irrigation Minister, also said that his country would continue pushing for negotiation until the three countries reach an agreement, while affirming that water filling, testing and commissioning of the dam will begin next year. “The issue is an affair of the three countries and it should not be concerning to the US.

It was after the Egypt call for international mediation that the US started to be involved in the dam negotiation as an observer, but later started to act as a mediator and facilitator, which has been opposed by Ethiopia since the beginning.

The ministers of the three countries, along with US Treasury and World Bank, met three times in Washington over the past two months, although the meeting failed to resolve the deadlock.

The disagreement between Ethiopia and Egypt over annual water release, filling and operation of the dam as well as definition of severe drought remain unresolved. Last week, the US assured that it remains engaged with the three countries until they sign the final agreement.




Samson Berhane


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ethiopian Business Review | EBR is a first-class and high-quality monthly business magazine offering enlightenment to readers and a platform for partners.

2Q69+2MM, Jomo Kenyatta St, Addis Ababa

Tsehay Messay Building

Contact Us

+251 961 41 41 41
Addis Maleda