Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi told the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church on Monday that the Nile is a “source of life” for Egypt, not just a source of development.
El-Sisi met with Patriarch Mathias I at the Ittihadiya presidential palace in Cairo, part of the patriarch’s six-day trip to Egypt where he has met with senior religious and political officials, including Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab.
El-Sisi told the cleric that Egypt cannot stand to hinder the right to development of the Ethiopian people but that while the Nile river is a source of development for Ethiopians, it is a source of life and not just development to Egyptians, as it is their main source of water, Al-Ahram's Arabic news website reported.
Relations between the two countries have been tense in recent years since Cairo raised concerns about the effect Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam project on the Blue Nile will have on Egypt’s water supply.
Ethiopia has repeatedly said that Egypt, a downstream country, will not be negatively affected by the under-construction dam. Both countries, along with Sudan, also downstream of the dam, have agreed to commission a new report on the effects of the dam by a yet-to-be selected international consultancy film.
During the meeting, El-Sisi stressed the importance of taking practical measures that transform political agreements into a legal reference that protects the rights and interests of both countries and consolidates cooperation.
Pope Tawadros II, who attended the meeting, talked about the projects the Coptic Church carries out in the name of Egypt in Ethiopia to contribute to development there and to strengthen cooperation between the two people.
Patriarch Mathias I stressed the strength of the relations between both countries, especially given the shared presence of the Nile river, from which both countries should benefit.
The Ethiopian cleric expressed his satisfaction with the results of a visit by an Ethiopian People's Delegation to Cairo in December and said the Ethiopian people are waiting for El-Sisi's planned visit to Addis Ababa.
The Ethiopian patriarch will visit several churches and monasteries in Egypt and Alexandria, and will attend the weekly sermon by Pope Tawadros II on Wednesday at St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo. He also performed the divine liturgy at a Coptic church in Cairo on Sunday, Al-Ahram's Arabic news website reported.