Ethiopia ready to resume dam talks with Egypt: Ethiopian official
Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam - AFP

CAIRO: Ethiopian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Dina Mufti said Wednesday that his government is ready to discuss Egyptian proposals regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

 “If Egypt returned to the tripartite dialogue (along with Sudan), Ethiopia will be ready to talk,” he said in a press statement. “Egypt should cooperate to execute the recommendations issued by international experts in this regard.”

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, currently under construction, will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa upon completion, and has raised fears in Egypt that it could reduce the flow of the economically and culturally important Nile River.

 The Ethiopian statement follows comments by Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy Saturday expressing his desire to negotiate with Ethiopia to resolve current tensions between the two countries.

Former U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali also pitched in, and said during a seminar at Misr Public Library in Giza Wednesday that there was a need for diplomatic dialogue with Ethiopia and that the use of military power will not achieve anything regarding the dam.

But, he also warned that if Ethiopia builds the dam, it could open the door for building new dams, which could pose a serious threat to Egypt’s water security.

The Ethiopian army has boasted of its ability to defend the dam, and many experts believe such statements implicitly threaten Egypt due to the conflict over the project’s construction. But military rhetoric from Ethiopia may also be in response to aggressive posturing from the government of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who said “all options were open” for dealing with the dam. A meeting between Morsi and Egyptian politicians in June 2013—broadcast live, unbeknownst to many in attendance—revealed that some officials were discussing espionage, sabotage and military action to halt the dam’s construction.

 But recent gestures from Egyptian officials show tensions might be easing.

Presidential frontrunner Abdel Fatah al-Sisi stressed during an interview with Nahar satellite channel Monday that dialogue is the only way to resolve the crisis, and he expressed his readiness to visit Ethiopia if he took power.

International powers are also inserting themselves into the issue.

In a May 14 press conference, the U.S. State Department expressed its concern over disagreements on the Renaissance Dam construction, as America seeks to keep the peace between two important regional allies.

According to the Ethiopian Reporter newspaper, the Ethiopian government is scheduled to join a new round of negotiations with Egypt under U.S. mediation. It reported that Aaron Salzberg, a special coordinator on water resources at the U.S. State Department will have a major role in these negotiations.

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