Ethiopia accuses Egypt of trying to maintain its grip over the Nile’s waters

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Ethiopia has accused Egypt of trying to maintain its grip over the waters of the Nile with a proposal it says would imperil a giant hydropower dam under construction on Ethiopia’s Blue Nile, in a growing diplomatic spat.

The comments highlight the difficulties finding a compromise between the two countries over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Two rounds of talks over the past month in Egypt and Sudan failed to produce progress.

Egypt relies on the Nile for up to 90 percent of its fresh water, and fears the dam, which is being built in Ethiopia close to the border with Sudan, will restrict already scarce supplies.

After talks had stalled, Egypt had submitted a proposal on August 1, including conditions over filling the reservoir, which Ethiopia rejected.

In an explanation for its decision, Ethiopia said the Egyptian plan was “one-sided,” flawed, and would ultimately hamper its economic development.

“Egypt’s proposal is an effort to maintain a self-claimed colonial era-based water allocation and veto power on any project in the Nile system,” the Foreign Ministry said in an October 1 note circulated to embassies, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry could not be immediately reached for comment.

The $4 billion dam is designed to be the centerpiece of Ethiopia’s bid to become Africa’s biggest power exporter, generating more than 6,000 megawatts, and is seen by Addis Ababa as a step towards redressing a historic imbalance in the exploitation of the Nile’s waters.

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