US hopes deal close on controversial Ethiopia dam

The $4 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), under construction near Ethiopia’s border with Sudan on the Blue Nile, which flows into the Nile river. (Reuters)

The United States is optimistic Ethiopia is close to a deal with Egypt and Sudan on a controversial mega-dam, an official said on Monday, ahead of a trip by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Pompeo will visit Ethiopia as well as Senegal and Angola starting on Saturday on his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa since becoming the top US diplomat in April 2018.

Asked if Pompeo would seek to seal an accord in US-brokered talks on the dam, a senior US official said: “Hopefully that situation is close to resolution.”

“Let’s keep our fingers crossed and remain very optimistic,” he said, adding that all three countries were friendly with Washington.

Egypt fears that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which will be the largest such project in Africa and double Ethiopia’s electricity, will drain the Nile, on which the parched Arab state relies for 90 percent of its water.

Egypt sought the intervention of President Donald Trump over the $4.2 billion hydroelectric project, which Ethiopia hopes to start operating later this year.

Trump also tweeted last month after a phone call with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed that he believed a deal was near, although the three nations pushed their deadline until the end of February, their latest delay.

Negotiators have appeared to make progress, with Ethiopia in a draft accord agreeing to fill the dam only during the rainy season and to base future water levels on the conditions of the Nile.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 10:05 - GMT 07:05
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