Ethiopia began filling the reservoir of its giant Nile dam without signing an agreement on water flows, a step Egypt has warned will threaten regional security.
The announcement was made by Ethiopian Water, Irrigation and Energy Minister Seleshi Bekele, according to a report on the state-owned Ethiopian Broadcasting Corp.’s Facebook page.
The move came two days after the latest round of African Union-brokered talks over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam failed to reach a deal on the pace of filling the 74 billion cubic-meter reservoir.
Egypt, which relies on the Nile for almost all its fresh water, has previously described any unilateral filling as a breach of international agreements and has said all options are open in response. Ethiopia, where the 6,000-megawatt power project has become a symbol of national pride, has repeatedly rejected the idea that a deal was needed, even as it took part in talks.
The filling potentially brings to a head a roughly decade-long dispute between the two countries, both of which are key U.S. allies in Africa and home to about 100 million people. Their mutual neighbor, Sudan, has also been involved in the discussions and echoed Egypt’s misgivings over an impact on water flows.
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