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Egyptian farmer Mohamed Omar (L), 65, and other farmers supply their farmland with water from a canal, fed by the Nile river, in the village of Baharmis on the outskirts of Egypt's Giza province, northwest of the capital Cairo, on December 1, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

Cairo: Water ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan started on Monday talks on a contested dam being built by Addis Ababa on the Nile.

The two-day meeting is the second in a series of four designed to reach an agreement in the long-standing row by mid-January.

Representatives from the US and the World Bank are attending as observers.

The talks are taking place in Cairo and are aimed at resuming discussion on contentious rules of filling and operating the dam, spokesman for the Egyptian Water Resources Mohammad Al Sebae said.

“The first meeting held in Addis Ababa on November 15 and 16 tackled the technical elements controlling the process of filling and operating the Renaissance Dam and dealing with drought and re-filling situations,” he added.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has triggered wide fears in Egypt, which relies heavily on the Nile to cover the water needs of its population of nearly 100 million people.

Ethiopia has repeatedly denied Egyptians’ worries and defended its construction of the 5-billion-dollar dam as being vital for its development and lifting its population of around 107 million out of poverty.

Last month, foreign ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan met in Washington and agreed to hold four meetings, in the presence of US and World Bank representatives as observers, to reach an agreement by January 15.

A third meeting of the water ministers will be held later this month in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.