Even before the impact studies have been started, officials say 50 percent of the dam's construction has been completed [Reuters]

Egypt is committed to the course of negotiations sponsored by the United States and the World Bank regarding on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) despite Ethiopia’s announced non-participation, the Egyptian foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

“Egypt’s two ministers of foreign affairs and water resources and irrigation will take part in the ministerial meeting invited by the U.S. administration,” said Egypt’s Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Ahmed Hafez in a statement.

Hafez said that his remarks came in reply to a reporter’s question about the recently announced non-participation of the Ethiopian side.

A ministerial meeting between the water and foreign ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan is scheduled to be held in Washington on Feb. 27-28 to crystalize a final agreement on the rules of filling and operating the GERD built by Ethiopia on their shared Nile River.

The Ethiopian ministry of water, irrigation and energy said on Wednesday that Ethiopia will not take part in the dam talks in Washington “due to unfinished consultation with national stakeholders,” according to state-run Ethiopian News Agency (ENA).

“Ethiopia’s negotiation team will not come to the table without coherent consultations as it has not yet completed discussion with domestic experts and stakeholders,” ENA quoted the Ethiopian ministry as saying.

The Egyptian foreign ministry said Egypt will still participate in the ministerial meeting “in appreciation of the constructive role played by the U.S. administration over the past few months to help the three countries reach a desired agreement.”

Hailemariam Desalegn, the special envoy of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, has recently visited Egypt and Sudan and held talks with their leaders over the dam issue but nothing was announced about Ethiopian non-participation.

Upstream Nile Basin country Ethiopia started building its grand hydropower dam in 2011 on the Blue Nile, while Egypt, a downstream country, is concerned that the dam might affect its 55.5-billion-cubic-meter annual share of Nile water.

Egypt’s fellow downstream country Sudan eyes future benefits from the GERD construction despite Egyptian concerns.

After years of fruitless ministerial talks between the three countries, fresh rounds of negotiations have been resumed in Washington under U.S. sponsorship and a final agreement was expected to be concluded in late February.

Filling the reservoir, whose total capacity is 74 billion cubic meters, may take several years. Egypt seeks to prolong the period to avoid the negative effects of water shortage, which is a main point of their talks.

The GERD is expected to produce over 6,000 megawatts of electricity and become Africa’s largest hydropower dam upon completion. Enditem

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