ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — The foreign ministers of Egypt and Ethiopia met in Addis Ababa on Monday in hopes of defusing tensions over a huge dam Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile River.
Egypt and Ethiopia began a sharp exchange of words after Ethiopia last month started to divert Nile waters as part of the construction of its massive $4.2 billion hydro-electric project dubbed the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
Egypt fears the dam will mean a diminished share of the Nile, which provides almost all of the desert nation's water needs.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr arrived in Addis Ababa on Sunday, where he is meeting counterpart Tedros Adhanom.
Dina Mufti, a spokesman for the Ethiopia's foreign ministry, said Ethiopia wants Egypt to understand that the dam is not going to harm Egypt.
But in a possible sign that the talks are not sailing smoothly, the two ministers cancelled a scheduled news conference Monday morning.
"I cannot anticipate the outcome of the meeting . but our wish is that they would understand that the construction of the dam is not going to harm them in any way. We have always sought a win-win cooperation and relationship with Egypt," Dina told The Associated Press on Sunday.
Relations between the nations have quickly grown tense over the last two weeks.
In a televised meeting June 3, Egyptian politicians suggested attacks against Ethiopia to sabotage the dam. A week later, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi warned that "all options are open" to challenge Ethiopia's Nile project.
In response, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn vowed "nothing" and "no one" will stop the dam's construction.
Then, last Thursday, Ethiopia's parliament unanimously ratified a new accord that replaces colonial-era deals that awarded Egypt veto powers over Nile projects.
The tensions are causing international concern. The head of the African Union urged dialogue and cooperation and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon telephoned both Morsi and Hailemariam.
Ethiopia downplays the prospect of military confrontation with Egypt. The president said Egypt would not attack unless its leaders "go mad." Ethiopia insists it "will not bow to pressure" by delaying the construction of the dam.
The Renaissance Dam has been under construction for two years on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia's Benishangul-Gumuz region near Sudan.
Currently more than 22 percent complete, the dam is expected to produce 6,000 megawatts, which will make it Africa's largest hydroelectric power plant. The dam is expected to have a reservoir of around 70 billion cubic meters, which is scheduled to start filling next year.