The United States has suspended a portion of its financial aid to Ethiopia over the lack of progress in talks with Egypt and Sudan about a massive dam Addis Ababa is constructing on the Blue Nile River.
Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt have been locked in a bitter dispute over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which remains unresolved although the reservoir behind the dam began filling in July.
A US Department of State spokesperson told The Associated Press news agency on Tuesday that the decision to “temporarily pause” some aid to a key regional security ally “reflects our concern about Ethiopia’s unilateral decision to begin to fill the dam before an agreement and all necessary dam safety measures were in place”.
Ethiopia considers the hydropower dam essential for its electrification and development but downstream Egypt and Sudan view it as a serious threat to vital water supplies.
It was not immediately clear how many millions of dollars in US aid are being cut, or for how long, but a congressional source told Reuters news agency: “Up to $100m or so will be affected, of which $26m is funding that expires at the end of the [financial year].”
The US move came after the three countries failed on Friday to reach an agreement on the management of the dam following 10 days of negotiations.
The State Department said commencing the filling of the reservoir before necessary safety measures were implemented “created serious risks for the populations of the downstream countries”, according to AFP news agency
It added that by continuing to fill the dam, Ethiopia was undermining confidence in the negotiations.
Fitsum Arega, Ethiopia’s ambassador to Washington, said on Tuesday he had been informed of the US aid cuts.
“They told us the issue is a ‘temporary pause’,” Arega said on Facebook.
“The dam is ours. We will complete it through our efforts. Our Ethiopia will have a bright glow through our efforts,” he added.