Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan agree to delay filling dam in minor breakthrough

Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan agree to delay filling dam in minor breakthrough
The Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD) has been a source of tension in the Nile River basin ever since Ethiopia broke ground on it nearly a decade ago.
2 min read
Egypt fears the mega-project will spell an existential threat to its population [AFP/Getty]

Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have agreed that Addis Ababa will delay filling a mega-dam as part of a comprehensive deal on the project that has raised tensions between the three countries, the Egyptian presidency said Friday.

Ethiopia had previously pushed to start filling the gigantic Nile River dam next month despite vehement opposition from downstream Egypt and Sudan, and the dispute was raised with the UN last week.

The office of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Friday that "a legally binding final agreement for all parties stressing the prevention of any unilateral moves, including the filling of the dam, will be sent in a letter to the UN Security Council to consider it in its session discussing the Renaissance Dam issue next Monday."

Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was more forthcoming, saying in a statement that "it has been agreed upon that the dam filling will be delayed until an agreement is reached".

His office said technical committees for all three countries will try to hammer out a conclusive deal within two weeks as suggested by Ethiopia.

"Sudan is one of the biggest beneficiaries from the dam and also one of the biggest losers if risks are not mitigated, thus it urges Egypt and Ethiopia to the impending necessity... of finding a solution," Hamdok added.

The minor breakthrough came after an emergency African Union Executive Council virtual session chaired by South African president Cyril Ramaphosa. Other attendees included Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Political tensions have been running high between upstream Ethiopia and downstream Egypt and Sudan after recent ministerial talks failed to produce a deal on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Addis Ababa has been vocal about its plans to start filling the dam, located on the Blue Nile, in July.

Egypt, which views the hydroelectric barrage as an existential threat, appealed last week to the UN Security Council to intervene in the dispute.

Addis Ababa followed suit complaining about Cairo, while Khartoum expressed its concern to the UN about Ethiopia unilaterally filling without a comprehensive deal being inked first.

Read more: Ethiopia's Great Renaissance Dam: A catastrophe for Egypt?

Cairo fears the dam would severely cut its Nile water supply, which provides nearly 97 percent of the country's freshwater needs.

Ethiopia says the dam is indispensible for its electrifiation and development needs.

The Nile is a lifeline supplying both water and electricity to the 10 countries it snakes through.