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African Union reports progress in Nile negotiations as Egypt hints at 'unilateral action' Open in fullscreen

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African Union reports progress in Nile negotiations as Egypt hints at 'unilateral action'

Tensions increased after Ethiopia unilaterally began filling the Renaissance Dam's reservoir [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 July, 2020

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The African Union has reported progress in negotiations regarding Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam amid heightened tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia as an Egyptian negotiator said his country could take 'unilateral action'
The African Union hosted a video summit on Friday attended by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok to discuss the ongoing dispute around Ethiopia’s Great Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Tensions increased between Egypt and Ethiopia when Ethiopia began unilaterally filling the dam’s reservoir last week. Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew outraged Egyptians on Wednesday with a tweet claiming that "the Nile is ours".

Sudan reported last week that levels of Nile water reaching its territory had dropped after Ethiopia began filling the dam.

Egypt fears that unrestricted filling of the dam's reservoir will deprive its people of essential water and cause drought and famine. Eighty-five percent of Egypt's water comes from the Blue Nile, where the dam is located.

An African Union statement said that Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan had agreed to further negotiations on the Renaissance Dam, known as the GERD and that these negotiations would "include a comprehensive agreement on future developments on the Blue Nile River".

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

The statement welcomed a new report by AU experts on the dam, saying that it "reflected notable progress in the negotiations and presented options for resolving outstanding legal and technical issues".

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Ethiopia has so far resisted signing a binding agreement regarding the filling of the dam’s reservoir. An agreement drafted by the United States earlier this year was rejected by Ethiopia, which said that it was biased in Egypt’s favour. The African Union has since stepped in to mediate negotiations.

On Saturday, Al-Jazeera Arabic quoted the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry as saying that Ethiopia was looking for a "non-binding agreement" on the Renaissance Dam which "could be revised".

Alaa Al-Zawahiri, a member of Egypt's negotiating team said that Egypt could take "unilateral action" if the dispute is not resolved within the next few months.

He told an Egyptian television channel that "Egypt is studying its options and will take unilateral action regarding the Renaissance Dam crisis if Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia don't reach agreement by next October."

He added that Ethiopia was trying to provoke Egypt into withdrawing from negotiations by taking unilateral actions such as closing off the lower parts of the dam in order to blame Egypt, saying that Ethiopia would try to blame Egypt for refusing peaceful solutions if it abandoned negotiations.

Sisi said on Friday that Egypt was "capable of taking action to defend its historic rights" to the Nile.

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