Ethiopia, Egypt reach ‘major common understanding’ on dam

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Ethiopia’s Prime Minister said on Tuesday his country, Egypt and Sudan have reached a “major common understanding which paves the way for a breakthrough agreement” on a massive dam project that has led to sharp regional tensions and led some to fear military conflict.

The statement by Abiy Ahmed’s office came as new satellite images show the water level in the reservoir behind the nearly completed USD4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is at its highest in at least four years.

Ethiopia has said the rising water is from heavy rains, and the new statement said that “it has become evident over the past two weeks in the rainy season that the (dam’s) first-year filling is achieved and the dam under construction is already overtopping”.

Ethiopia has said it would begin filling the reservoir of the dam,

Africa’s largest, this month even without a deal as the rainy season floods the Blue Nile. But the new statement said the three countries’ leaders have agreed to pursue “further technical discussions on the filling and proceed to a comprehensive agreement”.

The statement did not give details on Tuesday’s discussions, mediated by current African Union Chair and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, or what had been agreed upon.

But the talks among the country’s leaders showed the critical importance placed on finding a way to resolve tensions over the storied Nile River, a lifeline for all involved.

A satellite image shows the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile river in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia. PHOTO: AP