Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan to resume talks on Nile dam

The project has been a source of huge diplomatic tension since its construction began in Ethiopia in 2011

Photo: AP Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

Ethiopia’s prime minister said Tuesday his country, Egypt and Sudan have reached a “major common understanding which paves the way for a breakthrough agreement” on the Grand Renaissance Dam reservoir on the Blue Nile. 

The agreement to resume talks was struck during a meeting of the African Union, chaired by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, giving hope for an end to the huge diplomatic tension and fears that the construction of the dam might lead to a military conflict

Ethiopia sees the hydroelectric project, whose construction began in 2011, as crucial for its economic growth and a vital source of energy. But Egypt and Sudan, which are downstream, fear the large dam will greatly reduce their access to water. Years of fraught negotiations have failed to reach a consensus on how and when to fill the reservoir, and how much water it should release.

But in a statement now, Ethiopian leader Abiy Ahmed hailed the progress, adding that the $4.6bn dam was already "overtopping" due to rains over the last couple of weeks.

The statement by Ahmed’s office came as new satellite images show the water level in the reservoir behind the nearly completed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is at its highest in at least four years.

If the countries reach an agreement and it becomes operational the dam will generate 6,000 megawatts, making it the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa. It will provide power to some 65 million Ethiopians, who currently lack regular electricity supply.

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