Russia Welcomes Decision to Resume Talks over Ethiopia’s Dam

ADDIS ABEBA – Russia has welcomed the recent agreement between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan to resume their negotiation over Grand Renaissance dam, Addis Ababa is building over the Blue Nile river.

Maria Zakharova, the spokesperson of Russia’s Foreign Ministry, said Moscow is “closely following the development of the negotiation process” between three nations in connection with the hydroelectric dam.

“We trust that the inclination declared by the parties to continue the search for mutually acceptable solutions will lead to concrete results in a tripartite format,” Zakharova said in a statement Russian embassy in Addis Ababa sent to The Monitor.

Going up along the Blue Nile near the border with Sudan, the construction of the $4.5 billion dam – also known as GERD – is 74 percent complete.

The negotiations center on the pace at which Ethiopia fills the 74 billion cubic meter reservoir behind the dam and the impact that could have on water supplies downstream in Sudan and Egypt.

Ethiopia, which building the dam on its own money, is planning to start filling the reservoir in July. Cairo and Khartoum say it must not start filling the reservoir until an agreement is reached.

Russia said “the entire range of issues” including the “regime for water use must be coordinated, in accordance with national security interests”.

Its foreign ministry’s spokesperson also urged the three nations to take a “positive note of the calls” made by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last month.

The UN urged them to “peacefully resolve” their differences. “The secretary-general encourages progress towards an amicable agreement,” the spokesperson for UN head Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

Ethiopia remains resolute that a so-called declaration of principles agreement signed by Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan in 2015 allows it to proceed with damming the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

“Ethiopia doesn’t need permission of any downstream country to utilize its legitimate share of water,” its water minister Seleshi Bekele said in a briefing to African diplomats late last month.

“The first stage of the first filling starts this July,” declared the minister.

The dam is set to be Africa’s biggest hydropower dam once it is completed, generating about 6,000MW  of electricity. Ethiopia plans to export electricity to neighboring states to help ease an acute foreign exchange shortage.