Egypt inks U.S.-sponsored Nile dam deal despite Ethiopia's absence

Source: Xinhua| 2020-02-29 17:28:45|Editor: xuxin
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CAIRO, Feb. 29 (Xinhua) -- Egypt signed in Washington a U.S.-sponsored agreement regarding Ethiopia's giant dam built on the Nile River and urged Ethiopia and Sudan to follow suit, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

"Egypt looks forward to the acceptance by Sudan and Ethiopia of this agreement and their signing of it at the earliest possible juncture, since it is a fair and balanced agreement that achieves the common interest of the three countries," said the ministry statement.

A ministerial meeting of the water and foreign ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan was scheduled to be held in Washington on Feb. 27-28 to crystalize a final agreement on the rules of filling and operating the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

However, Ethiopia said a day before the meeting that it will not take part in the dam talks in Washington "because of unfinished consultation with national stakeholders."

Egypt expressed on Saturday its rejection of "Ethiopia's unjustifiable absence from this meeting at this critical stage in the negotiations."

Ethiopia, an upstream Nile Basin country, started building its grand hydropower dam in 2011 on the Blue Nile, while downstream Egypt is concerned that the dam might affect its 55.5-billion-cubic-meter annual share of Nile water.

Egypt's fellow downstream country Sudan, eyes future benefits from the GERD construction despite Egyptian concerns, as the GERD is expected to produce more than 6,000 megawatts of electricity and become Africa's largest hydropower dam upon completion.

Tripartite negotiations of the three countries have been fruitless for years and the United States has recently sponsored fresh rounds of talks in Washington to push for an agreement that was supposed to be signed by all parties in late February.

Filling the reservoir, with a total capacity of 74 billion cubic meters, may take several years, but Egypt seeks to prolong the period to avoid the negative effects of water shortage, which is a main point of their talks.