The U.S. suspended aid to Ethiopia over its decision to fill a hydropower dam on a tributary of the Nile River without reaching an agreement with Egypt and Sudan on how the reservoir will be managed.
The Trump administration is increasingly concerned about the lack of progress on trilateral negotiations, according to a State Department official who isn’t authorized to speak publicly about the matter and asked not to be identified. The U.S. government is working with the three countries to facilitate an agreement that balances their interests, the official said.
Egypt, which depends on the Nile for most of its fresh-water needs, is opposed to any development it says will impact the flow downstream — a position echoed by Sudan. Ethiopia is developing a 6,000-megawatt power plant at the dam, and has asserted a right to use the resource for its development.
The cut in U.S. aid, amounting to about $130 million, could affect security, counter-terrorism and anti-human trafficking programs, Foreign Policy reported Aug. 28.
Fitsum Arega, the Ethiopian ambassador to the U.S., confirmed the suspension after asking the State Department for clarity.
“We understand that the issue is Temporary Pause,” he said in a Twitter post. “The dam is ours! We will finish it together! With our efforts, our Ethiopia will shine!”
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office declined to comment on Wednesday.
The U.S. brought the countries together in November to negotiate an agreement, after previous attempts failed. Ethiopia walked away from the talks and called for the African Union to moderate the dispute. Those discussions are still ongoing.
The three African nations failed to break the deadlock in negotiations last week, Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abas said. Talks are expected to resume on Sept. 14, according to a statement from the Ethiopian Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy.
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