Ethiopia Denies It Began Second Filling of Disputed Nile Dam

Ethiopia denied starting the second phase of filling its giant hydropower dam on a Nile River tributary, as Sudan and Egypt warned against further pooling without a deal on water usage.

Sudan has evidence to suggest Ethiopia resumed filling the reservoir this month, a Sudanese official said Tuesday, citing data on river flows gathered in the downstream nation. Sudanese technical records show changes in the level of the Blue Nile River that indicate water is being pooled, the person said, asking not to be identified as the studies aren’t public.

“This is not true,” Ethiopian Water Minister Seleshi Bekele said by text message from the capital, Addis Ababa. The comments by Sudanese officials are “deliberately misleading statements targeted to confuse everyone,” he said.

Ethiopia, which is developing a 6,000-megawatt hydropower plant at the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, enacted the first filling phase last year and was understood to be planning the second one around July. Downstream neighbors Egypt and Sudan, which fear the project could curb their water supplies, have called for additional international mediation to secure a pact with Ethiopia on filling and operating the dam before the latest pooling.

Options Open

Egypt has warned Ethiopia not to “touch a drop” of its Nile water, a vital resource for the North African country that’s mostly desert. President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi recently said that all options are open as to how to deal with the issue, while stressing the need for cooperation.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Egypt’s leader in Cairo on Wednesday as part of a regional tour. Sisi’s spokesman later said Blinken renewed Washington’s commitment to helping parties reach a deal that respects the water and development rights of all.

Egyptian and Sudanese forces began a joint military drill named ‘Guardians of the Nile’ in Sudan on Wednesday, Al-Arabiya TV channel reported. The ground, air and navy drills follow joint aerial exercises earlier this year and in November, according to the state-run Ahram Online news website.

Anadolu Agency on Tuesday cited Mustafa Hussein Al-Zubair, Sudan’s chief negotiator on the dam, as saying the second filling has started. Sudan’s foreign and information ministries didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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