China and the United Nations backed calls for Ethiopia to resume talks over its plan to begin filling a giant hydropower dam that is opposed by Egypt. Ethiopia wants to start supplying the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam when the next rainy season begins in July. Egypt insists on having a say in how quickly it’s filled, because it will affect the flow of the Nile River, the nation’s main source of freshwater. The U.S. and the European Union have both urged the countries to resolve the issue peacefully.
“Regarding the GERD issue, we hope the differences between the two nations could be resolved through dialogue and peaceful negotiations,” Zhang Gaohui, chief of political affairs at the Chinese Embassy in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, said in an emailed response to questions.
U.S. and World Bank-backed efforts to mediate the dispute between Ethiopia and Egypt broke down in February when Ethiopia withdrew from the talks. Earlier this month, Egypt accused Ethiopia of having “a policy of unilateralism”, according to a letter to the Security Council obtained by Bloomberg. In its response, Ethiopia has said it doesn’t have any legal obligations to seek Egypt’s approval to fill the dam.
The increased pressure for talks comes as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmedis distracted by negotiations with creditors about debt waivers. Ethiopia is expected to sign a moratorium with the Paris Club in the coming days, to free up capital the country needs to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
Sudan has also been party to the discussions about the dam. The Blue Nile that originates in Ethiopia and is one of the main tributaries of the Nile, passes through Sudan en route to Egypt. The Sudanese government is working to restart tripartite talks, it said on Wednesday.