President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said Sunday Egypt is working to ensure that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) does not damage its water interests or reduce Egypt’s “historical share of water”.
Al-Sisi added that he does not mind visiting Ethiopia, “once, twice or even three times in order to resolve the issue in a way that completely preserves Egypt’s share of Nile water.” The president was cited by state-run MENA as saying this to the editors-in-chief of newspapers and news services, including MENA’s.
His statements come hours ahead of the beginning of a new round of tripartite negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan on GERD, which will be held in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Monday and Tuesday.
Egypt’s Water and Irrigation Minister Hossam El-Din Moghazy and the delegation he is leading were received Sunday afternoon by his Sudanese counterpart Motaz Mousa.
Before starting his trip, Moghazy said the negotiations would start on Monday and that there would be no turning back, state-run Al-Ahram reported.
Mousa was cited by MENA as saying that the atmosphere of the negotiations is dominated by optimism to achieve positive results that satisfy all parties.
The last round of tripartite talks was held in January but ended without reaching an agreement. It was preceded by tripartite talks in November and December of last year, but these also failed.
Moghazy said the upcoming talks would be held based on the results of the meeting between Al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on the sidelines of the African Union summit in June. Al-Sisi said he received promises from Desalegn during the talks that the dam would have no negative effects whatsoever on Egypt’s share of water, whether during construction, operation or during filling the dam lake.
Following the meeting, Egypt and Ethiopia agreed to form a joint committee to streamline discussions on GERD. The agreement, which outlined seven steps for the continuing construction of the dam, was formulated by the foreign ministers of both countries, but was directly overseen and endorsed by Al-Sisi and Desalegn.
Both nations hailed the agreement as a “new chapter in relations between Egypt and Ethiopia… based on openness and mutual understanding and cooperation.”
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry called Ethiopian counterpart Tedros Adhanom on Thursday and the two sides agreed to continue communication during the time of the tripartite talks and to facilitate negotiations if necessary.
Egypt and Ethiopia have been locked in a diplomatic dispute over GERD, since Egypt fears that the dam will affect its share of Nile water.
Downstream countries Egypt and Sudan together receive the majority of Nile water. As per agreements signed in 1929 and 1959, Egypt annually receives 55.5bn cubic metres of the estimated total 84bn cubic metres of Nile water produced each year and Sudan receives 18.5bn cubic metres.
However, the two water sharing agreements, which guarantee Egypt the lion’s share of water, were signed in the absence of Ethiopia.
In February, bilateral talks between Egypt and Ethiopia ended after failure to resolve key points of debate between the two countries.
During a meeting with Adhanom in June, Al-Sisi said that Egypt understands Ethiopia’s development needs but added that this must go hand-in-hand with Ethiopian understanding of Egypt’s water needs, and that Egypt has no alternatives to the Nile for its growing water needs.
In 2013, while serving as Minister of Defence, Al-Sisi rejected the idea of using military force to resolve water issues.
Despite Shoukry’s prior indication that he would visit Addis Ababa, the foreign minister went to Saudi Arabia on Saturday to attend a meeting with the purpose of finding a political solution to the crisis in Syria.