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Abiy and Sisi agree to restart Nile dam talks

Hopes for a resolution have been raised after the move to finalise agreement on filling and operation of the long-disputed GERD project

Ethiopia and Egypt have agreed to resume talks over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) that Addis Ababa is building on the Blue Nile river with a view to finalising agreement in four months, according to a joint statement by the two governments on 13 July.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi in Cairo on the margins of the Egypt-hosted summit on the civil war in Sudan, attended by neighbouring countries, and the two leaders agreed to 'initiate expedited negotiations to finalise the agreement between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan on the filling' of the dam and its operation within four months, the statement said.

Diplomatic disputes between the two countries have been running for years over the hydroelectric dam, primarily due to Egyptian fears that the dam could affect its essential water supplies, while Ethiopia sees it as an integral part of its plans to electrify millions of homes. Under the terms of the disputed 1959 Nile Waters Agreement, which Ethiopia wants to reopen, Egypt was entitled to 66% of the Nile waters and Sudan to 22%.

Prior to the war, warmer relations between Abiy and Sudan Armed Forces leader Abdel Fattah al Burhan had sidelined Sisi in the negotiations over the dam but the political vacuum in Khartoum as the fighting rages has put an end to that (AC Vol 64 No 6, How El Sisi lost the cold war over water).

The huge reservoir, which is nearing completion, has been filled over the past three rainy seasons as the dam wall was built up despite the opposition of Egypt and Sudan.

However, it is not clear how the talks will be mediated and by whom. Efforts by the African Union, United States and United Arab Emirates to mediate in recent years have all broken down.

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