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The New Arab Staff

Ethiopia seeks US clarification on aid cuts over Nile Dam construction

The dam's 74 billion-cubic-meter reservoir saw its first filling in July [Getty]

Date of publication: 1 September, 2020

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Ethiopia's US Ambassador Fitsum Arega tweeted saying he has heard the aid cut is related to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and that the clarification is expected from the US.

Ethiopia has asked the US for clarification on a report that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has approved cutting up to $130 million in aid to the east African country over a dam dispute with Egypt and Sudan, an Ethiopian diplomat said on Monday.

The aid cut is believed to be related to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, according to Ethiopia's ambassador to the US Fitsum Arega, who tweeted that a clarification over the move is expected from the US.

Ethiopia is determined to complete the dam on the Blue Nile, he said, adding "We will pull Ethiopia out of darkness."

The planned cut was reported by Foreign Policy late on Thursday, setting off an uproar among some in Ethiopia, a regional security ally of the US. A State Department spokesperson on Friday said they had no announcements on US assistance "at this time".

"We believe that past work by Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan shows it is still possible to reach balanced and equitable agreement in a manner that takes into account the interests of the three countries," the spokesman said. "We reaffirm our commitment to remain engaged with the three countries until they reach agreement."

Africa's largest hydroelectric dam has caused severe tensions with Egypt, which has called it an existential threat, concerned that it will reduce the country's share of Nile waters.

Ethiopia says the $4.6 billion dam will be an engine of development that will pull millions of people out of poverty. Sudan, in the middle, worries about the effects on its own dams though it stands to benefit from access to cheap electricity.

Years of talks among the countries have failed to come to an agreement. Key remaining issues include how to handle the release of water from the dam during multi-year droughts and how to resolve future disputes.

Pope Francis recently urged Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to continue talks amid regional concerns that the dispute could lead to military conflict.

The US earlier this year tried to mediate the discussions, but Ethiopia walked away amid accusations that Washington was siding with Egypt. Now the three countries are reporting any progress to the African Union, which is leading negotiations.

The dam's 74 billion-cubic-meter reservoir saw its first filling in July, which Ethiopia's government celebrated and attributed to heavy rains.

Ethiopia had said it would fill the dam with or without a deal with Egypt and Sudan.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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