Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia [Business Monthly/Facebook]

Egypt allowed 32 Ethiopian prisoners to fly home Monday, sources said, after apparent progress in talks between the leaders of the two countries over a controversial dam Ethiopia is building.

The prisoners, who had been detained for minor breaches including trespass and immigration offences, flew home on the same plane as Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, diplomatic and airport sources said.

Ahmed held talks in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, discussing Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam on the Nile river, a hydroelectric project that downstream Egypt has long feared will restrict water flow to its detriment.

“The prisoners were released today and travelled with the Ethiopian prime minister,” a diplomatic source said.

A source at Cairo airport said the Ethiopians had departed for their home country.

Ahmed appeared on Egyptian state television on Sunday, giving a personal guarantee the dam would not adversely affect Egypt, while Sisi said the two men discussed building an industrial region in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian leader thanked Sisi for allowing the release of the prisoners, in a joint news conference by the pair on Monday.

Construction of the dam has also caused friction between Ethiopia and Sudan, with Ahmed travelling to Khartoum for talks last month with President Omar al-Bashir.