Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan to sign Nile Dam agreement by the End of February

Ministers from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan said on Friday a final agreement will be signed by the end of February on the giant Blue Nile hydropower dam that sparked a years-long diplomatic crisis between Cairo and Addis Ababa.

The countries have been at odds over the filling and operation  of 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.

President Donald Trump on Friday voiced confidence a US-brokered deal will come soon on the dam.

The three regional powers convened in Washington for what were supposed to be two days of meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday to complete an agreement after talks earlier this month, but negotiations dragged into Friday and disbanded without a final accord.

In a joint statement with the United States and the World Bank after the talks, the nations said they had agreed on a schedule for staged filling of the dam and mitigation mechanisms to adjust its filling and operation during dry periods and drought.

The nations still have to finalize several aspects of the dam, including its safety and provisions for the resolution of disputes, the statement said. But it added that a final agreement on the dam would be signed by all three countries by the end of February.

“Documents to be signed will be further deliberated by legal team supported by technical team. This will continue next week to complete comprehensive document within 30 days,” Sileshi Bekele, Ethiopian minister for water, irrigation and energy, said on Twitter.

The United States has hosted several rounds of talks in Washington with ministers from the three regional powers and the World Bank after years of trilateral negotiations failed.

Trump, in a call with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Friday, expressed optimism that an agreement on the dam was near and would benefit all parties involved, a White House spokesman said.

The colossal 1.8-kilometer-long dam, under construction since 2011, is expected to begin generating power by the end of this year and eventually double Ethiopia’s electricity.

While Ethiopia says the dam is crucial for its growing economy, Egypt fears the project will disrupt the river that provides 90 percent of its drinking water.

The US Treasury Department has been leading the talks after Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi sought intervention from Trump.

Even without taking the dam into account, largely desert Egypt is short of water. It imports about half its food products and recycles about 25 billion cubic meters of water annually.

Addis Ababa denies the dam will undermine Egypt’s access to water.

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