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Ethiopia snubs US-brokered mediation with Egypt over disputed Nile dam

By Abuga Makori in Nairobi , Garowe Online

ADDIS ABABA - Ethiopia will skip final talks on controversial construction of Grand Renaissance Dam, which are scheduled for Thursday and Friday in Washington, it has emerged.

For several months now, the talks which bring together Egypt and Sudan, have been held in the US, under the close supervision of President Donald Trump and Department of Treasury.

Last month, the parties reached a "preliminary agreement" on the construction of the dam on the Blue Nile, which is almost 70 percent complete.

But the massive deal which was expected this month would delay, with the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying during his trip to Addis Ababa last week that “a great deal of work remains.”

According to state-owned Fana, Ethiopia will skip Washington talks “because the country’s delegation hasn’t concluded its consultation with relevant stakeholders'.

“The decision has been communicated with the U.S. Treasury secretary," added Ethiopia's ministry of water, which is responsible for the implementation of the project.

Critics within Ethiopia have raised concerns that the US might have pressured authorities to reach an agreement over a $4.6 billion dam project, which is almost nearing completion.

Egypt, which invited the US for mediation, wants the dam to be filled more slowly to reduce restrictions on the flow of the Nile.

But Ethiopia insists that the dam is needed to provide electricity for development and had in January announced that it will start filling the dam in July, during the rainy season.

“There were lots of discomforts recently due to the behavior and changing role of the U.S. among policymakers in Ethiopia,” political analyst Abel Abate Demissie told The Associated Press.

The dispute over what will be Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam pits Ethiopia’s desire to pull millions out of poverty against Egypt’s concerns over critical water supply.

During his visit to Ethiopia, Pompeo several ongoing projects in the Horn of Africa nation, and Ethiopia's snub may after all not anger Washington.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was a minister at the time the dam's construction was launched, has also stood his ground, arguing that Ethiopia has a right to use Nile waters without limitations.

The latest decision could yet again escalate tensions between Addis Ababa and Cairo, whose rivalry has been in the offing as their struggle to outshine each other on the social-economic front.


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