US keen on Ethiopia dam deal as Pompeo makes maiden Africa trip

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THE United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Africa for the first time since becoming the top US diplomat in April 2018, making stops in Ethiopia, Senegal and Angola.

Pompeo’s predecessor, Rex Tillerson was relieved of his duties hours after he concluded his maiden trip of the continent that saw him in Ethiopia, Chad, Kenya and Nigeria.

An official from the State Department said they are hoping to close a deal with Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan on a controversial mega-dam being constructed on the Nile.

Asked if Pompeo would seek to seal an accord in US-brokered talks on the dam, a senior US official said: ‘Hopefully that situation is close to resolution’.

‘Let’s keep our fingers crossed and remain very optimistic,’ he said, adding that all three countries were friendly with Washington.

Egypt fears that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which will be the largest such project in Africa and double Ethiopia’s electricity, will drain the Nile, on which the parched Arab state relies for 90 percent of its water.

Egypt sought the intervention of President Donald Trump over the $4.2bn hydroelectric project, which Ethiopia hopes to start operating later this year.

Trump also tweeted last month after a phone call with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed that he believed a deal was near, although the three nations pushed their deadline until the end of February, their latest delay.

Negotiators have appeared to make progress, with Ethiopia in a draft accord agreeing to fill the dam only during the rainy season and to base future water levels on the conditions of the Nile.

 

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