The United States will stay engaged with Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan until they sign an accord ending years of differences over a giant Blue Nile hydropower dam, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Friday, but gave no specific date.
The three countries had expected to sign an agreement about the filling and operation of the $4 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in Washington this week, but only Egypt has initialed the deal thus far.
Mnuchin said he held separate bilateral talks with key ministers from Egypt and Sudan over the past two days after Ethiopia asked for a delay in what was to be the final round of talks. He said he looked forward to Ethiopia concluding its internal consultations to allow a signing of the deal “at the earliest possible time.”
Ethiopians in Washington gathered Thursday to support the country’s Nile dam project and voice displeasure over the U.S. role in the negotiations.
At issue is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project. Egypt, which relies on the Nile for 90% of its freshwater, has asked for safeguards to slow the filling of the dam to avoid affecting the Nile water level. Ethiopia has said it plans to begin filling the 145-meter-high dam later this year. Planners say it will take four to seven years to fill.
Dozens of demonstrators rallied in front of the U.S. State Department carrying Ethiopian and American flags and signs with slogans including “America Should Mediate, and Not Coerce!”
Many protesters expressed anger at the perceived favoritism of U.S. mediators toward Egypt in the dispute. The U.S. Treasury Department is playing a lead role in mediating technical discussions among Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan over the construction of the dam, one of the largest infrastructure projects in African history.