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Monday, 09 December 2019

Egypt, Ethiopia leaders to meet in Russia to discuss GERD stalemate

Egypt President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is set to meet Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa Summit

Mohamed Soliman , Tuesday 22 Oct 2019
Sisi
Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi (Photo: Egyptian presidency spokesman official facebook)
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Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed are set to meet on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi in an attempt to revive stalled talks regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which Egypt is concerned will reduce the flow of Nile water to downstream countries.

Egypt's foreign minister Sameh Soukry told Russian Sputnik news agency on Monday that Russia could help solve the Ethiopian Dam problem.

"Russia is a big and permanent member of the Security Council. It is a state that always supports and emphasises the principles of international legitimacy and the need to respect international law," Shoukry told Sputnik in an interview in Cairo on the occasion of the Africa-Russia summit, which will be held in the Russian resort city of Sochi on 23-24 October.

"The countries of the world can contribute to resolving this issue which affects 105 million Egyptians, 40 million Sudanese and 100 million Ethiopians," Shoukry said.

President El-Sisi said on Monday that Egypt has exerted strenuous and balanced efforts to break the stalemate in the GERD talks.

The president expressed hope that an agreement would be reached to guarantee the water supply for Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, saying that the rivers flowing through the continent should be a source of brotherhood and prosperity, not a source of conflicts, presidential spokesman Bassam Rady said.

On the other hand, Ethiopia’s prime minister warned on Tuesday that his country is ready mobilise "millions" if it comes to war over the construction of the GERD, though he stressed that settling the dispute through negotiations is in everyone's best interest.

"The meeting is the last chance to revive the negotiations," Egypt's former minister of water resources and irrigation Mohamed Nasr El-Din Allam told Ahram Online.

Allam said that Ethiopia must understand Egypt's demands and seize this opportunity instead of stalling.

He also suggested that Ethiopia is rejecting the involvement of any third party in the negotiations because any external study would reveal that the dam would have a negative impact on downstream countries.

Ethiopia has rejected a proposal by Egypt that the dam be filled over a period of seven years and release 40 billion cubic meters of water every year.

Earlier this month, Egyptian officials said that talks over the matter had reached a deadlock and called for international mediation. Ethiopia has dismissed the calls for mediation, saying it has faith in the trilateral negotiations.

"In my opinion, it is difficult to reach a solution without an international mediator; however, Ethiopia is expected to refuse any mediation," Allam said.

Allam added that the setting of the upcoming meeting between El-Sisi and Ahmed presents an opportunity for Russia's involvement as a mediator, and that any mediation would reveal the fairness of Egypt's demands.

The upcoming meeting is significant for both its timing and for the fact that it involves the leaders of Egypt and Ethiopia, according to Ayman Abdel-Wahab, deputy head of the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies and an expert in African affairs.

"This meeting represents an opportunity for talks removed from the technical discussions that Ethiopia has been stalling since 2017," Abdel-Wahab said.

Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly has said that Egypt is forced to resort to Article 10 of the Declaration of Principles signed in Khartoum in 2015, which allows for an outside party to mediate in the negotiations.

Earlier this week, Madbouly said that the dam is being built without regard to any environmental, economic or social studies.

Madbouly added that although Egypt fully understands the need of Nile Basin countries for development, this should not come at the cost of harming other nations.

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