U.S. to decouple Ethiopian aid from 6,450-MW GERD dispute

The U.S. Department of State has made a decision to de-link its suspension of millions of dollars of aid to Ethiopia from the U.S. government’s policy on the contested 6,450-MW Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and hydro project.

Calling it a “temporary pause on certain assistance to Ethiopia from the United States policy” on GERD, Ned Price, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, said in a press briefing on Feb. 19, “We have informed the Ethiopian Government of this decision. The resumption of temporarily paused assistance programs will be assessed based on a number of factors. We are committed to providing lifesaving assistance to those in need, and humanitarian assistance does remain exempt from the pause.

“When it comes to specific amounts, the amount of State and AID security and development assistance currently impacted by the temporary pause on certain foreign assistance is approximately $272 million, and that includes funding from FY 2020 and prior fiscal years.”

GERD – on the Blue Nile River in the Benishangul-Gumuz Region — will feature a 510-foot-tall, 5,840-foot-long roller-compacted-concrete dam that will create a reservoir with a capacity of 70 km3. Two powerhouses will contain a total of 16 Francis turbine-generator units. GERD is designed to be the centerpiece of Ethiopia’s bid to become the continent’s biggest power exporter. However, it faces considerable controversy, not the least of that being a deadlock between the three affected countries – Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia – over operation of the project.

Price was asked if the Biden administration is willing to resume a mediating role to resolve the GERD dispute, as the Trump administration did.

Price said, “We continue to support collaborative and constructive efforts by Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan to reach an agreement on the GERD. We understand the GERD is a major issue for the three parties. We’re reviewing our GERD policy and assessing the role that we can play in facilitating a solution between those parties.”

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