Sudan's cabinet backs UAE mediation in border, dam disputes with Ethiopia

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Water flows through Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia September 26, 2019. Picture taken September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

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KHARTOUM, March 23 (Reuters) - Sudan's cabinet has backed an initiative for the United Arab Emirates to mediate in a dispute over Sudan's border with Ethiopia, and over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), the Sudanese information minister said on Tuesday.

Tensions surrounding the control of farmland in al-Fashqa, on the border, have escalated in recent months, while talks over the operation of the GERD, which will affect water volume downstream on the Nile in Sudan and Egypt, are deadlocked.

Sudan's transitional cabinet backed the proposal for Emirati mediation after it had been studied at ministry level, Information Minister Hamza Baloul said.

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Sudan had previously proposed four-party mediation over the dam involving the African Union, the European Union, the United States and the United Nations.

That suggestion had been backed by Egypt, the other party to the stalled talks, but not by Ethiopia, which says it supports renewed negotiations led by the African Union.

There was no immediate comment from Ethiopia or Egypt on the latest mediation proposal.

Ethiopia is expected to add water to the reservoir behind the giant hydropower dam for a second year after seasonal rains start this summer.

Ethiopia says the dam is key to its economic development and power generation. Egypt fears it will imperil its supplies of Nile water while Sudan is concerned about the dam's safety and about regulating water flows through its own dams and water stations.

Earlier on Tuesday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reaffirmed in a speech to lawmakers that the reservoir would be filled again, putting the cost of delaying by a year at $1 billion.

"Ethiopia doesn't have any intention to cause harm to Sudan and Egypt. But we also don't want to live in darkness," Abiy said.

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Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz;

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