World Bulletin/News Desk
Consultations among experts of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt aimed at determining the impact of Ethiopia's $4.8 billion dam project on the Nile's upper reaches halted amid differences between Egypt and Ethiopia, an official said Sunday.
The Tripartite National Committee (TNC) – a 12-member experts’ panel responsible of facilitating implementation of recommendations of the International Panel of Experts concerning Ethiopia’s hydroelectric dam project – had so far held two working sessions in Addis Ababa and Cairo.
"The third session was supposed to be held in Khartoum on December 4-6, but could not be held due to disagreements," Bizuneh Tolcha, a senior official with the Ethiopian Ministry of Water, Energy and Irrigation, told The Anadolu Agency.
The experts' panel recommended that two studies get conducted – one on the hydrological simulation model and another on a trans-boundary environmental, economic and social impact assessment, which led to the creation of the TNC by the three countries to get those studies done.
During the last two meetings, the three countries, according to Tolcha, were able to produce a list of seven firms, out of which only one would be selected to conduct the studies.
"Each country was supposed to come up with its proposals that comprise technical evaluation of the firms, but during a preparatory conference in Cairo on November 4, a disagreement occurred as to the points to be included in the studies," Tolcha said, declining to give further details.
"The matter has since been referred to the relevant ministers of the three countries so that they resolve the matter," he said. "Though minor, that disagreement has come as a stumbling block against the progress of the tripartite talks."
Ethiopian says the dam project is meant to generate badly-need energy. But the project has strained Ethiopia's relations with downstream Egypt, which fears the project will reduce its water share.
Addis Ababa, for its part, insists the new dam will benefit downstream states Egypt and Sudan, both of which will be invited to purchase the electricity generated by the dam.
The two countries agreed to resume tripartite talks – which also included downstream country Sudan – after Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi met in Equatorial Guinea in June.
According to the original schedule, the TNC should meet in Addis Ababa on December 16 to select the firm to conduct the two studies.