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Ethiopia says first year of Nile mega-dam filling 'achieved'

Addis Ababa (AFP) - Ethiopia said Tuesday that its first-year target has been reached for filling a mega-dam on the Blue Nile River that has stoked tensions with downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan.

Ethiopia's dam has been a source of tension in the Nile River basin (AFP Photo/Handout)

The announcement from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's office indicated enough water had accumulated to enable Ethiopia to test the dam's first two turbines -- an important milestone on the way toward actually producing energy.

But it risked drawing the ire of both Cairo and Khartoum, which had insisted that a trilateral agreement on the dam's operations be reached before Addis Ababa began impounding water in the dam's reservoir.

"It has become evident over the past two weeks in the rainy season that the GERD first year filling is achieved and the dam under construction is already overtopping," Abiy's office said in a statement, using the acronym for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

The project has been a source of tension in the Nile River basin ever since Ethiopia broke ground on it in 2011.

Egypt and Sudan view the dam as a threat to vital water supplies, while Ethiopia considers it essential for its electrification and development.

Ethiopia's announcement came as African leaders held a virtual meeting Tuesday to try to resolve the dispute, a process that was being overseen by the African Union.

In a Twitter post after the meeting, Abiy said it had been "fruitful" and that there was a "common understanding reached on continuing technical discussions on filling".

Sudanese water minister Yasser Abbas, meanwhile, told reporters that Khartoum rejected "any unilateral step from one country". There was no immediate reaction from Egypt.

In a statement earlier Tuesday, African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said it was "absolutely necessary" that Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan "come to an agreement that preserves the interest of all parties". read more...


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