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February meeting on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam postponed

GERD meeting postponed

Sudan has postponed, at Ethiopia’s request, a planned meeting on the 6,000-MW Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam originally scheduled for Feb. 24 and 25, according a press release from Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This “trilateral ministerial meeting” was to take place in Khartoum and involve the participation of foreign and irrigation ministers and heads of intelligence services from the three countries.

“The Ministry understands the circumstances that may have pushed Ethiopia to request postponing the meeting and hopes that they pass at the nearest opportunity,” the press release says. “Nevertheless, the Ministry looks forward to the adherence of the timeframe determined by the leaders to settle the existing technical disputes; especially, as the Renaissance Dam issue affects the interests of the peoples of the three nations.”

This announcement comes just days after Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn submitted his resignation. He was sworn in as prime minister in September 2012 but says his resignation will “contribute to the ongoing efforts towards bringing solution to the current situation in the country,” according to the Ethiopian News Agency. Desalegn will remain in office until his successor is appointed.

Ethiopia declared a state of emergency on Feb. 16 to restore law and order after riots occurred.

Background on GERD

GERD has been a point of contention for some time. At the heart of the matter is a concern that filling of the reservoir impounded by the dam will take too much water from the Blue Nile River, causing water shortages to downstream countries like Egypt.

Talks were held in November 2017 but ended without an agreement on the rules for filling the reservoir. Discussions centered around how long Ethiopia would take to fill the reservoir and how much of the river’s flow would be used to generate electricity once the project is online.

Ethiopian Electric Power has been working to build GERD since 2011, at an expected cost of $6.4 billion. GERD is to feature the largest roller-compacted-concrete volume dam in the world at 10.2 million cubic meters. The reservoir it impounds will have a capacity of 70 cubic kilometers. Two powerhouses will contain 16 Francis turbine-generator units, and total annual generation is expected to be 15 TWh.

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