U.S. Downplays Claims of Pressuring Ethiopia on Dam Talks

ADDIS ABEBA – The U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said on Tuesday his government would not impose any solution on Ethiopia in negotiations with Egypt and Sudan regarding renaissance dam.

His reaction came amid reports of the Trump administration is pressing prime minister of Abiy Ahmed and his government to find a resolution to its dispute with Egypt over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Last year, the U.S. Treasury Department stepped in to facilitate talks between the three Nile nations after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi reached out to US President Donald Trump, a close ally.

The latest round of talks concluded in Washington last week, and officials have said they want to reach a deal by the end of February.

While briefing reporters on Tuesday, Pompeo said the U.S. aims to help to find a solution to the dispute.

“Our mission… is not to impose a solution on this but rather for the three countries to come to a solution that each of them acknowledges,” he said

Pompeo also said the process, which he described as “very professional, could take longer than previously anticipated.

“A great deal of work remains, but I’m optimistic that over the coming months we can resolve this,” he added.

Ethiopia says the multi-billion hydropower dam project — which will be the largest hydropower plant in Africa — is crucial for its growing economy.

Egypt is heavily dependent on the river, and fears the multi-billion dollar project will give Ethiopia too much control of the flow of water.

Last week, Addisu Lashitew, an analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington, told AFP that Pompeo was “trying to make a final push” to reach a deal during his stay in Ethiopia.

“President Trump seeks to get the credit… as the dealmaker for resolving this issue,” Addisu said.

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew said there were “outstanding issues that need negotiation” without getting into details.

But major sticking points include the filling of the dam’s reservoir, which Egypt worries will dramatically curb water flow downstream, remains unresolved, according to reports.