CAIRO: Egypt has asked Ethiopia for urgent clarification on whether it had started filling its Grand Renaissance dam on the Blue Nile, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.
It was Cairo's first official reaction after Ethiopia's water minister said earlier in the day that Addis Ababa had begun the filling, a day after talks with Sudan and Egypt, which both depend on Nile water, became deadlocked.
"The construction of the dam and the filling of the water go hand in hand," Ethiopian Water Minister Seleshi Bekele said in televised comments, a transcript of which was provided to Reuters by his office. "The filling of the dam doesn't need to wait until the completion of the dam."
The water level had increased from 525 metres to 560 metres, he said.
On Tuesday, talks between the three nations to regulate the flow of water from the dam failed to reach agreement.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters Secretary General Antonio Guterres had urged the three countries to “seize the opportunity in the coming days to bridge remaining differences and reach a mutually beneficial agreement for their peoples”.
The dam, when finished, will have an installed capacity of 6,450 megawatts - more than doubling Ethiopia's existing capacity - and is the centrepiece of the country's bid to become Africa's biggest power exporter.
The dam is being built about 15 km (9 miles) from the border with Sudan. Sudan and Egypt have sought a legally binding agreement before the dam is filled.
Sudan's Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources said it was prompted to investigate after satellite images appeared to show the reservoir filling.
"It was evident from the flow meters in the Al-Deim border station with Ethiopia that there is a retreat in the water levels, equivalent to 90 million cubic meters per day, confirming the closure of the gates of the Renaissance Dam," it said in a statement.
Sudan rejects any unilateral actions taken by any party as negotiating efforts continue, it said.