Ongoing tensions over the Nile waters have heightened after Sudan’s Minister for Irrigation and Water Resources Yasser Abbas warned that any unilateral move by Ethiopia to fill its Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) “would threaten Sudan’s national security.”

His comments come at a time when both countries have accused each other’s security forces of attacking civilians on disputed farmlands that straddle both sides of their joint international border.

This is on top of the tensions over the Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) which Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile close to the border with Sudan.

Ethiopia began filling the reservoir behind the dam in June after the summer rains despite demands from Egypt and Sudan that it should first reach a binding agreement on the dam’s operation.

While Egypt views the dam as a major threat to its fresh water supplies, its southern neighbor is eyeing the opportunity to gain cheap hydroelectric power. Moreover, officials in Sudan believe that the dam will cut off seasonal flooding of Nile waters in its territory, occurrences that have become more frequent in recent years inflicting heavy infrastructural damages its struggling economy can’t handle.

But Sudan’s government demands that all actions taken by Ethiopia should come after a joint resolution of the conflict.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia says the dam is crucial to its economic development and it’s within their sovereign right to fill the dam.

“The filling of the Renaissance Dam by one side next July represents a direct threat to Sudan’s national security,” said Abbas.

He said unilateral filling of the reservoir threatened electricity generation from Sudan’s Merowe Dam and Roseires Dam, as well as the safety of the Roseires Dam and of 20 million Sudanese living downstream of the GERD.

Sudanese drinking water stations could also be put at risk, he added.

The African Union has convened recent negotiations over the GERD between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt but talks have repeatedly stalled. Talks hosted by the United States last year also failed to secure a deal.

Sudan is also proposing a mediation role for the United States, European Union, United Nations and African Union as a way of breaking the deadlock in talks about the dam between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia, Abbas told Reuters in an interview.

“Sudan is now leading a diplomatic and political campaign to clarify its position and reach a legal and binding solution,” Abbas said.

“We are optimistic that if there is political will, a mutually agreed solution can be reached.”

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