No breakthrough in Ethiopian dam talks, Egypt says

A general view of Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia March 31, 2015. REUTER/Tiksa Negeri

CAIRO (Reuters) - Technical talks between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over a disputed dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile river failed to make a breakthrough, Egypt’s foreign minister said on Monday, amid pressure for a deal before the project opens this year.

Egypt and Ethiopia are at loggerheads over the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam, a $4 billion-hydroelectric project that Cairo fears will reduce waters that run to its fields and reservoirs from Ethiopia’s highlands and via Sudan.

Addis Ababa hopes the dam will make it a hub for the electricity-hungry region and denies it will undermine Egypt’s access to water.

Sameh Shoukry said technical experts who met in Addis Ababa last week did not achieve a breakthrough.

“I have spoken to the minister of irrigation, who attended this meeting, and what has reached me is that the obstruction that has bogged down this path for more than a year has not been overcome,” Shoukry told reporters during a news conference in Cairo with his visiting Ugandan counterpart.

He said both Ethiopia and Sudan continued to have reservations about a technical report by a French firm commissioned to assess the dam’s environmental and economic impact.

Ties between Egypt and Sudan were strained when Khartoum backed the dam because of its need for electricity.

The three African neighbors are set to meet on May 15 for further talks, Shoukry said, adding Egypt had initially proposed several earlier dates for negotiations, but they were turned down by the two other countries.

Earlier this month, talks in Khartoum between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan also failed to reach agreement, but were described by Sudan’s foreign minister as “constructive”. [nL4N1RJ27K]

Reporting by Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Mark Potter