CAIRO: Violating Egypt’s waters was a “red line” that would affect the stability of the entire region, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said on the sidelines of an inspection visit to the Suez Canal.
The country has been in protracted and so far unsuccessful talks regarding the $4 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Ethiopia hopes the dam will turn it into Africa’s top hydropower supplier, but Egypt and Sudan fear it will substantially reduce their water share and affect development prospects.
El-Sisi, who said Egypt was capable of facing down any threat, warned that nobody would be able to “take a drop of water” from the country. He also said Egypt had been very rational, very patient and that there would be regional instability if its water rights were violated.
“Our battle is a battle of negotiation and hostile action is unacceptable, but if our water supplies are affected, Egypt’s response will echo in the region.”
El-Sisi said there would be progress on the dam issue in the coming weeks, and that Egypt hoped to reach an agreement.
He said the country was seeking to reach a fair and binding legal deal to fill and operate the dam, which has been a source of regional diplomatic tension since its construction began in Ethiopia in 2011.
The president also spoke about the Suez Canal, which was thrust into the global spotlight last week when a massive container ship got wedged in it and caused the vital waterway to back up.
“We did not want an accident in Suez, but it was dealt with effectively,” El-Sisi said. “The Suez Canal is a global site for the movement of trade and the passage of ships. Egypt is making tremendous efforts in more than one aspect. We salute the Suez Canal Authority and all those who participated in resolving the crisis, despite the size of the challenges and difficulties, but the flotation of the ship took place without losses.”
He said the canal was responsible for 13 percent of the global trade volume and, for 60 years, it had remained a significant aspect of the global trade and maritime industry.
El-Sisi thanked the countries that had offered assistance in re-floating the “Ever Given.”