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The dam, as of 2017. Photo: Gioia Forster/picture alliance via Getty Images

Officials from Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan convened in Washington today ahead of the Jan. 15 deadline they set to reach a deal on what will be Africa’s largest hydropower dam.

Driving the news: Ethiopia, which began construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in 2011, considers it both a major economic opportunity and a matter of national pride. It plans to start filling the dam within months.

  • Egypt considers the dam an existential threat, as the country is facing water scarcity already and is almost entirely dependent on the Nile. It wants the dam filled much more slowly.
  • All sides have said they want a deal this week. However, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's request yesterday that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa mediate the dispute seemed to indicate much remained to be settled.

What to watch: “If the dispute is not resolved by Jan. 15 the nations will have several options ... from using an international mediator to involving the heads of states,” per Reuters.

Go deeper

6 hours ago - World

Top general: U.S. losing time to deter China

Stanley McChrystal. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Stanley McChrystal, a top retired general and Biden adviser, tells Axios that "China's military capacity has risen much faster than people appreciate," and the U.S. is running out of time to counterbalance that in Asia and prevent a scenario such as it seizing Taiwan.

Why it matters: McChrystal, the former commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, recently briefed the president-elect as part of his cabinet of diplomatic and national security advisers. President-elect Joe Biden is considering which Trump- or Obama-era approaches to keep or discard, and what new strategies to pursue.

Progressives shift focus from Biden's Cabinet to his policy agenda

Joe Biden giving remarks in Wilmington, Del., last month. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Some progressives tell Axios they believe the window for influencing President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet selections has closed, and they’re shifting focus to policy — hoping to shape Biden's agenda even before he’s sworn in.

Why it matters: The left wing of the party often draws attention for its protests, petitions and tweets, but this deliberate move reflects a determination to move beyond some fights they won't win to engage with Biden strategically, and over the long term.

Dave Lawler, author of World
8 hours ago - World

Venezuela's predictable elections herald an uncertain future

The watchful eyes of Hugo Chávez on an election poster in Caracas. Photo: Cristian Hernandez/AFP via Getty

Venezuelans will go to the polls on Sunday, Nicolás Maduro will complete his takeover of the last opposition-held body, and much of the world will refuse to recognize the results.

The big picture: The U.S. and dozens of other countries have backed an opposition boycott of the National Assembly elections on the grounds that — given Maduro's tactics (like tying jobs and welfare benefits to voting), track record, and control of the National Electoral Council — they will be neither free nor fair.