US considers withholding aid to Ethiopia over dam conflict, officials tell Foreign Policy



Wed, 22 Jul 2020 - 10:01 GMT


Wed, 22 Jul 2020 - 10:01 GMT

FILE - Ethiopia's Abiy Ahmed - Reuters

FILE - Ethiopia's Abiy Ahmed - Reuters

CAIRO – 22 July 2020: The US administration is considering suspending some aid to Ethiopia, six officials and congressional aides told Foreign Policy, as Ethiopia’s prime minister announced the completion of the first filling of the Renaissance Dam, which heightened tensions with Egypt over fears of water shortage.


Earlier this year, The United States has announced it will continue to work with Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan until they sign an accord on the hydropower dam, according to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.


The three countries had expected at the time to sign an agreement in Washington on the filling and operation of the $4 billion dam, but Ethiopia skipped the meeting and only Egypt has initialed the deal.


Mnuchin praised Egypt’s decision to initial the brokered document, which includes rules for filling and operating the controversial dam in Ethiopia. He also warned Ethiopia from filling the dam before an agreement is reached.


The sponsorship of negotiations by the US and the World Bank started in November last year after rounds of failed negotiations between Egypt and Ethiopia.


In June this year, the American National Security Council posted a tweet in which it urged the Ethiopian government to reach a “fair” deal on the Renaissance Dam with the downstream countries of Sudan and Egypt.


The tweet said that Ethiopia should show strong leadership and strike a deal before filling the dam with Nile River water.


However, Egypt then announced the failure of tripartite negotiations.


1st filling

Ethiopian media last week claimed that the country has started filling the $4 billion dam, quoting the Water Minister as saying that “the construction of the dam and the filling of the water go hand in hand,” Reuters reported.


Later on the same day, Ethiopia’s Water Minister Sileshi Bekele denied the media reports, saying to The Associated Press that heavy rains are the reason for what has been shown by satellite images as the swelling of the dam’s reservoir.


On his unverified Twitter account, Bekele said the “inflow into the reservoir [is] due to heavy rainfall and runoff exceeded the outflow and created natural pooling. This continues until overflow is triggered soon.”


Amid reports of dam filling, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry has requested an “urgent official clarification” from the Ethiopian government.


“Egypt continues to follow up on the developments on what has been circulated by media around this issue,” Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Hafez said.


Endorsing reports on dam filling, the Sudanese Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources affirmed that the Blue River water level at the border with Ethiopia declined by 90 million cubic meters daily.


Sudan added that the measurements indicated that the Ethiopian Renaissance dam’s gates were closed, preventing millions of cubic meters of water.


On Wednesday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed congratulated Ethiopians on completing the first phase of the filling of the dam.



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