Egypt's FM heads to Uganda for Nile Basin summit

Ayat Al Tawy , Sunday 18 Jun 2017

Sameh Shoukry will discuss Nile water issues with ministers ahead of a presidential meeting later this year

Sameh Shoukry
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (File photo: Reuters)

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry is to fly to Entebbe, Uganda, on Monday for ministerial meetings involving the Nile Basin countries, the ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

Senior government officials, including ministers of foreign affairs and water, are due to attend two-day preparatory meetings on 20-21 June in the run-up to a presidential summit scheduled a day later.

The presidential gathering, which Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi will attend, is the first such summit to bring together all Nile Basin countries, with a population of over 500 million.

The ministry says the "historic" gathering will "open the way to exploring broad areas of cooperation in many development areas beyond the field of water," according to spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid.

During this week's meetings, Egypt aims to "work towards bringing the views and positions on the Nile water closer by focusing on prospects for cooperation and achieving common goals, as well as expanding the scope of cooperation ... to include cultural and security cooperation and political coordination," the ministry statement read.

Last week, Sisi and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Musevini discussed preparations for the summit in a phone call.

Officials had said earlier that the upcoming summit would look at the results of earlier meetings as well as points of contention on the Entebbe Agreement.

Uganda is the current chair of the Nile Council of Ministers of Water Affairs of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI). Egypt froze its NBI membership in 2010 over disagreements about the Cooperative Framework Agreement, also known as the Entebbe agreement.

Spokesman Abu Zeid said Egypt hopes the upcoming summit will "come up with a common vision to re-launch the initiative based on the principle of the mutual interests of all countries."

In July, Egyptian irrigation minister Mohamed Abdel-Ati attended the 24th annual meeting of the NBI’s Nile Council of Ministers (Nile-Com) in Uganda after an absence of several years, a move seen as a partial return of the North African nation to active participation in the group.

The NBI comprises 10 permanent members: Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. Eritrea has observer status.

In March, Egypt's water resources Minister Mohamed Abdel took part in talks held by NBI's council of ministers in Uganda's Entebbe that addressed Cairo's concerns over the Nile Basin Initiative and the Entebbe agreement.

By 2011, six Nile Basin nations had signed the agreement, which was developed over more than a decade: Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

Egypt and Sudan have declined to sign the treaty -- which sets out the principles and obligations of member states regarding the use of the basin's water resources -- citing concerns about its reallocation of water quotas and other provisions.

Historic water-sharing pacts between Egypt and Sudan continue to govern the distribution of Nile water between the two countries.

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