WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he had held talks with officials from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan over a disputed new dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile River.
“The meeting went well and discussions will continue during the day!” Trump wrote in a Twitter post.
Egypt fears its water crisis could worsen as Ethiopia starts filling the reservoir behind the giant dam upriver. Nile-user Sudan also has an interest in the hydropower project.
Officials from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan were slated to meet with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin later on Wednesday.
Cameron Hudson, a former U.S. State Department official and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center, said the Washington meetings came “out of the blue” since the United States had not been actively involved in trying to mediate the Nile water issue. He said he did not expect any breakthroughs.
Hudson also said it was surprising that the Washington meeting was being hosted by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, not Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, since the State Department arguably had more expertise in the issues involved.
The announcement had not been well coordinated within the U.S. government, he added.
Witney Schneidman, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs who is now a senior adviser at Covington & Burling, also expressed surprise at Washington’s foray into the water issue since the Trump administration had not been actively involved in African issues.
But he said resolving the dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which Egypt says will lower water levels further, would help the region enormously.
“A successful resolution of the tensions regarding the Renaissance Dam is critical to economic progress in the region. And if the U.S. can play a part in that process, that’s to everyone’s benefit,” he said.