CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has reiterated that the issue of the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD) is an “existential issue” for Egyptians, adding that his country will not accept any risk to its water supply.
In a meeting with US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman on Wednesday, El-Sisi said Egypt is keen to enhance bilateral cooperation with the US and underlined the vital role of such a partnership in achieving stability in the Middle East and Africa.
A spokesman for El-Sisi said the two men discussed several issues relevant to the Horn of Africa, foremost of which was the GERD. Feltman said the US is keen to help reach “a fair and comprehensive settlement” to the matter, given its great importance to Egypt and the region.
Ethiopia started building the 1.8 km-long gravity dam in 2011. Egypt fears it will threaten its supplies of water from the River Nile. Sudan, meanwhile, is concerned about the dam’s safety and its effect on the water supply of Sudanese dams and water stations.
El-Sisi said Egypt has adopted a flexible approach to the issue over the years through a range of negotiation methods. Egypt’s approach, he said, has been based on seeking a “balanced and legally binding” agreement that respects the interests of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia. He blamed Ethiopia’s “lack of political will” for the failure of negotiations to date.
The president stressed that Egypt is still seeking a fair agreement regarding the filling and operation of the dam under the negotiations sponsored by the African Union, led this year by Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi.
El-Sisi called on the international community to “assume its responsibilities” to help solve the crisis. The president also highlighted the vital role of US influence in this regard.
Feltman said the US values its strategic relations with Egypt highly in light of Cairo’s political influence and pivotal role in the region. The envoy also stressed America’s desire to boost cooperation with Egypt.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel-Ati also met with Feltman. They told him that Egypt still hopes to reach an agreement over the GERD before summer this year.
They added that the process of filling the dam should be carried out according to an agreement that respects the interests of Egypt and Sudan — the two downstream nations — and limits any damage to those two countries.
During their meeting with Feltman, the ministers expressed Egypt’s willingness do as much as possible to ensure the success of the negotiations sponsored by the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Both ministers said Egypt is looking forward to cooperating with its international partners, especially the US, to achieve this goal.