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Ethiopia will continue to fill its large Nile dam despite threats

Ethiopia expressed its determination on Wednesday to continue filling its Nile dam, despite threats from the other riparian countries, Egypt and Sudan, which do not rule out any option to defend their interests.

These statements come a day after the failure of the negotiations between the foreign ministers of the three countries in Kinshasa, sponsored by the Congolese president, Felix Tshisekedi, president pro tempore of the African Union.

Ethiopia began construction of the Great Renaissance Dam (GERD) in 2011. Before its filling began, Egypt and Sudan wanted a tripartite agreement on its operation, but Addias Ababa believed there was no reason to wait.

Faced with the current diplomatic impasse, the filling, whose first phase ended in 2020, will continue during the next rainy season, starting in June or July, Ethiopian Water Minister Seleshi Bekele announced on Wednesday.

“The filling will take place,” he said at a press conference. “We are not going to give it up in any way,” he added.

From Khartoum, the Sudanese Minister of Irrigation, Yasser Abbas, warned Addis Ababa that they contemplate “all options”, if “Ethiopia starts the second filling without agreement.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al Sisi also reiterated his warnings. “I say to my Ethiopian brothers: Do not touch a drop of Egyptian water because all options are on the table.”

At the end of March, Al Sisi already evoked an “unimaginable instability” if the dam threatens “a single drop of water” from Egypt.

– “Imminent danger” –

The work has been a source of tension between the three countries since the laying of the first stone in April 2011.

This mega reservoir of 74,000 million cubic meters of water is located in the northwest and Ethiopia, near the border with Sudan, on the Blue Nile that joins the White Nile in Khartoum to form the Nile.

With an installed power of almost 6,500 megawatts, it could become the most powerful hydroelectric plant in Africa.

Ethiopia says that the energy it will produce is vital to meeting the needs of its 110 million people.

But Egypt, which is 97% dependent on the Nile for irrigation and drinking water, sees the Ethiopian reservoir as a threat to its water supply.

Sudan for its part fears damage to its own reservoirs if Ethiopia proceeds to the full filling of the GERD before reaching an agreement.

The last attempt failed on Tuesday, after three days of negotiation.

Ethiopia “threatens the people of the Nile basin and Sudan directly,” warned Sudanese Foreign Minister Mariam al Sadiq al Mahdi, warning of an “imminent danger” for the region and the continent.

The Ethiopian Minister of Irrigation regretted that Egypt and Sudan demanded greater involvement of South African, American and European Union (EU) observers.

Ethiopia wishes to privilege the process sponsored by the presidency of the African Union, whose headquarters are in its capital, Addis Ababa.

Negotiations are due to resume by the end of the month, according to Ethiopian diplomacy.

bur-sva / fal / hba / tjc / mb

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