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Talks on Ethiopia’s controversial dam project due to end

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Talks on Ethiopia’s controversial dam project due to end

GERD Dam
Photo: Maxar Technologies via AP

Talks between representatives of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) are set to conclude today.

The current round of negotiations has focused on moving past the diplomatic deadlock produced after a failed US mediation effort early this year. The African Union, serving as facilitator, has been trying to formulate a unified legally binding agreement to regulate the rules for filling and operating the GERD.

The negotiations remain driven by domestic conditions in the participating countries, as the Ethiopian government plays up the dam as a needed symbol of sovereignty and unity for a country going through a fragile political transition, and Egypt, which depends on the Nile for domestic hydropower, agriculture, and most of its water needs, continues to struggle with unfavourable demographic and environmental indicators, including rapid population growth, pollution and rising sea levels.

Until this point, the parties haven’t been able to reach a consensus and a new round of talks will likely be announced in the days ahead. Expect a prolonged diplomatic process directed at balancing the short-term goal to produce a stop-gap agreement that will allow Ethiopia to start filling the reservoir on a timetable acceptable to Egypt, with the long-term intention to negotiate a new, transboundary framework for resource sharing to avert future conflicts.

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Photo: Chinese Foreign Ministry

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