A high-level official Saudi delegation visited the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) during a short visit to Ethiopia on Friday, according to Ethiopia’s foreign ministry.
The ministry said the delegation was headed by Ahmed Al-Khateeb, senior advisor to the Saudi royal court and board chairman of the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), and he met with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn in Addis Ababa on Thursday.
Al-Khateeb also met Ethiopian Foreign Minister Workenh Gebeyehu and five other ministers on the same day.
“The Saudi officials expressed their government’s interest in developing and importing energy from Ethiopia,” the Ethiopian foreign ministry said.
The delegation visited GERD construction site and met with the chief engineer, discussing the current state of the project.
The 6,000-megawatt Grand Renaissance Dam, which is not yet 70 percent complete, is situated close to Ethiopia’s border with Sudan. Ethiopia hopes it will be able to export energy generated by the dam.
However, Egypt has long expressed concerns that the dam might reduce the amount of Nile Water it receives, thus affecting its main source of irrigation water.
Ethiopia maintains that the dam will not have any negative impact on Egypt or Sudan, which are both downstream.
In March 2015, the leaders of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia signed a cooperation agreement in Khartoum to pave the way for a joint approach to sharing Nile water.
The Saudi delegation also included officials from the energy, finance and industry sectors in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is the second biggest investor in Ethiopia, with investments totalling US$3 billion in December 2015.
The SFD also signed previous agreements to support projects in Ethiopia in 2013.
Tensions between Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been high since October due to the Egyptian position on the conflict in Syria, specifically its support for the Syrian state and army in the war against rebels.
Founded in 1975, the SFD is a Saudi government agency that provides bilateral aid to developing countries, mostly through grants and loans. The SFD’s loans are directed to supporting infrastructure construction in developing countries, including dam construction.
In October 2015, there were reports in Egyptian media of “Saudi mediation” between Ethiopia and Egypt over the dam.
Ethiopia has maintained that the project will have no negative impact on Sudan or Egypt and should benefit all sides.