The pontiff urged Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan to pursue negotiations.
Pope Francis has urged Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to continue talks to resolve their years-long dispute over a massive dam Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile that has led to sharp regional tensions and fears of military conflict.
Francis, speaking to a crowd gathered at St Peter’s Square on an official Catholic feast day, said he was closely following negotiations between the three countries over the dam.
Egypt and Sudan suspended talks with Ethiopia earlier this month after Ethiopia proposed linking a deal on the filling and operations of its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam to a broader agreement about Blue Nile waters that would replace a colonial-era accord with Britain.
The colonial-era deal between Ethiopia and Britain effectively prevents upstream countries from taking any action, such as building dams and filling reservoirs, that would reduce the share of Nile water to downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.
The Blue Nile is the source of as much as 85% of the Nile River’s water.
Sudan said Ethiopia’s latest proposal threatened the entire negotiations, and it would return to the negotiating table only for a deal on the dam’s filling and operation.
The African Union-led talks among the three countries are scheduled to resume Monday, according to Sudan’s irrigation ministry.
The pontiff called on all sides to continue on the path of dialogue “so that the Eternal River continues to be the lymph of life that unites, not divides, that always nourishes friendship, prosperity, brotherhood and never enmity, incomprehension or conflict”.
Addressing the “dear brothers” of the three countries, the pope prayed that dialogue would be their “only choice, for the good your dear peoples and of the entire world”.
Egypt’s prime minister Mustafa Madbouly meanwhile landed in Sudan’s capital Khartoum on Saturday for talks with Sudanese officials.
He was accompanied by several top officials including irrigation, electricity and health ministers, according to the office of Sudan’s premier Abdalla Hamdok.