Pompeo says Ethiopia-Egypt dam dispute could take months to resolve

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a joint press conference with Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew at the Sheraton Hotel, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Tuesday Feb. 18, 2020. (AP)
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walks with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at the Prime Minister office after a meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia February 18, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 February 2020

Pompeo says Ethiopia-Egypt dam dispute could take months to resolve

  • The US Treasury Department stepped in last year to facilitate talks between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan
  • Pompeo said the process could take longer

ADDIS ABABA: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that it could take “months” to resolve a dispute between Ethiopia and Egypt over a massive dam on the Nile River.
Tensions have been high in the Nile basin ever since Ethiopia broke ground on the project in 2011.
The US Treasury Department stepped in last year to facilitate talks between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan — another downstream country — after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi reached out to US President Donald Trump, a close ally.
The latest round of talks concluded in Washington last week, and officials have said they want to reach a deal by the end of February.
But at a press conference Tuesday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, Pompeo said the process could take longer.
“A great deal of work remains, but I’m optimistic that over the coming months we can resolve this,” he said.
Ethiopia says the dam — which will be the largest hydropower plant in Africa — is crucial for its growing economy.
Egypt fears the project will disrupt the river that provides 90 percent of its drinking water.
Addisu Lashitew, an analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said he expected Pompeo “will be trying to make a final push” to reach a deal during his stay in Ethiopia.
“President Trump seeks to get the credit... as the dealmaker for resolving this issue,” Addisu said on a call with reporters last week.
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew said at the press conference Tuesday there were “outstanding issues that need negotiation.”
He did not elaborate, but major sticking points include the filling of the dam’s reservoir, which Egypt worries will dramatically curb water flow downstream.
Ethiopia is the last stop on Pompeo’s three-country Africa tour, the first by a US cabinet-level official to the continent in 19 months.
On Tuesday he met Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year in part for pursuing an ambitious reform agenda upon taking office in 2018 following several years of anti-government protests.
Pompeo said the two men discussed the reforms and preparations for landmark elections planned for August 29.
“A free and credible vote will show there is no false choice between democracy and security, and it will ensure that everyone has a voice,” Pompeo said.
“I think the most impressive thing about these reforms is that they’re owned by the Ethiopian people,” he added.
Pompeo also met Tuesday with Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde and Moussa Faki Mahamat, chair of the African Union Commission which is headquartered in Addis Ababa.
On Wednesday he is expected to deliver a policy speech at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa before flying to Saudi Arabia.
Pompeo is attempting to lay out a positive vision for US cooperation with Africa, though analysts point out that the Trump administration’s record complicates that message.
The US is currently discussing military cuts in Africa.
Pompeo’s visit also comes just weeks after the US announced tightened visa rules targeting Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, as well as Tanzania, Sudan and Eritrea.


Suicide bomber targets mosque in Kabul’s Green Zone

Updated 1 min 55 sec ago

Suicide bomber targets mosque in Kabul’s Green Zone

  • Tuesdays attack comes just days after a bomb blast in the north of the country killed seven civilians

KABUL: At least three people were wounded when a suicide bomber targeted a mosque at the entrance to Kabul’s fortified Green Zone at prayer time Tuesday, an official said.
The latest attack in the Afghan capital came after seven civilians were killed in the north of the country in a roadside bomb blast authorities blamed on the Taliban.
No group immediately claimed the evening explosion in Kabul, which occurred at a popular mosque located on the edge of the Green Zone.
A loud blast sent shockwaves through the militarised compound, where alarms sounded at various embassies and international offices, sending staff rushing into safe rooms.
“A suicide bomber blew himself up inside a washroom at Wazir Akbar Khan mosque. Initial reports show three people wounded,” interior ministry spokesman Tareq Arian told AFP.
The attack comes on the heels of an Daesh group-claimed bombing Saturday against a television station’s minibus in central Kabul that killed a journalist and the driver.
Late Monday, seven civilians were killed by a roadside bomb linked to the Taliban in northern Afghanistan, officials said, even as authorities pressed for peace talks with the militants.
The blast struck a small truck in Kunduz province carrying a group of laborers in the volatile district of Khan Abad.
No group claimed responsibility, but Kunduz provincial spokesman Esmatullah Muradi blamed the Taliban.
“The Taliban usually plant roadside bombs to target security forces, but their bombs usually kill civilians,” he told AFP.
Despite the recent bloodshed, violence across much of Afghanistan has dropped overall since May 24, when the Taliban announced a surprise three-day cease-fire to mark the Eid Al-Fitr holiday.
Two of six others wounded in the Kunduz blast were in critical condition, district chief Hayatullah Amiri said.
President Ashraf Ghani had welcomed the Taliban cease-fire offer and authorities responded by announcing around 2,000 Taliban prisoners would be released in a “goodwill gesture” with a view to kickstarting peace talks.
Afghanistan’s former chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, who has been appointed to lead the talks, has said his team was ready to begin negotiations “at any moment.”
Late Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a video conference with top officials in Kabul including Ghani and his first deputy Amrullah Saleh.
While Saleh highlighted the importance of ongoing drop in violence and the need for holding on to a cease-fire, the two sides discussed the future steps needed to bring peace in Afghanistan, Ghani’s office said in a statement.
The issue of the release of Taliban prisoners and the venue for the intra-Afghan peace talks were discussed in particular, it said.
Violence had surged after the Taliban signed a landmark agreement with the United States in February, which paves the way for the withdrawal of all foreign forces by May next year.