This morning at the headquarters of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Abbasiyya, Pope Shenouda III, the Coptic Patriarch, received Mohamed Edrees, Egypt's new ambassador to Ethiopia.
The meeting, according to statements made by Edrees after the papal reception, was designed to evoke the issue of relations – historic and forthcoming - between the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt and its sister Ethiopian Orthodox Church as a key part of strengthening relations between the two countries.
"I was very privileged to be received by Pope Shenouda, who kindly gave me his blessings and promised support for my new mission," Edrees said following the meeting.
Edrees is expected to arrive in Addis in a few weeks to start his new post. The mission comes at a crucial point in Egyptian-Ethiopian relations, with expected resurfacing of disagreements over the allocation of Nile water resources.
Ethiopia is one of five of the seven Nile Basin Upstream countries that signed a framework agreement in May of last year to redistribute the water resources in a way that would undermine Egypt's annual share. Ethiopia is also planning the construction of mega-dams that could automatically reduce the Egyptian share – irrespective of the framework agreement.
After the January 25 Revolution, Addis Ababa announced that it would put on hold all decisions or discussions.
In statements to Ahram Online, Edrees stressed his intention to work for the promotion of cooperation between Egypt and Ethiopia in making the best use of the Nile water resources to serve the interests of both countries. "We can find ways to consolidate cooperation and to serve the interests of both sides, and I am confident that this is the intention in Cairo and in Addis," he said.
Edrees added that once misgivings are dispelled it will be possible for both sides to move forward in good faith. He stressed the role of public diplomacy, religious institutions and cultural bodies in promoting relations between the two countries. "We should not allow any disagreements to hijack the relationship, and we can turn the Nile water file into a platform for a new phase of strategic cooperation," he stated.