ADDIS ABABA – Egypt said on Tuesday it had suggested to Ethiopia and Sudan that they all call in international experts to help settle a dispute on an Ethiopian dam project on the river Nile.
Egypt fears the hydroelectric scheme will restrict the waters flowing down from Ethiopia’s highlands, through the deserts of Sudan to its fields and reservoirs. Ethiopia, which wants to become Africa’s biggest power exporter, says it will have no such impact.
Ministers from Ethiopia and Egypt met on Tuesday to try to resolve a disagreement over the wording of a report on the environmental impact of the $4-billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is still being built.
But Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said they had not managed to reach a breakthrough since the three nations last met in November.
“From a practical perspective, we have to recognise that technical deliberations … have not (yielded) sufficient results to enable the process to move forward,” Shoukry told journalists after the meeting in Addis Ababa.
He suggested the countries call in outside experts, without going into details. Officials who took part in the sessions said Egypt had suggested involving an international body such as the World Bank.
Ethiopia’s foreign minister, Workneh Gebeyehu, told the same press conference he was looking for a win-win situation, but did not comment on the Egyptian proposal.
Countries that share the river have argued over the use of its waters for decades – and analysts have repeatedly warned that the disputes could eventually boil over into conflict.
Sudan and Ethiopia say Egypt has refused to accept amendments that they had put forward to the environmental report.
Another source of disagreement is whether Ethiopia should be allowed to complete construction of the dam before the negotiations over ensuring water flows have finished.
Egyptian officials say this would violate an agreement signed by all three countries in 2015 meant to ensure diplomatic cooperation.