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Morsi's Ethiopia visit signals positive change in relations: Ambassador

Egypt's ambassador to Ethiopia talks to Ahram Online about a new phase in the country's relations with its Nile Basin neighbours as President Morsi winds down appearance at African Summit

Dina Ezzat , Monday 16 Jul 2012
Mohamed Morsi
Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi attends during the opening of the African Union (AU) leaders' meeting in Addis Ababa (Photo: Reuters)
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President Mohamed Morsi will return home from the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Monday evening, in a new atmosphere of cooperation between Egypt and its African brethren. 

It was the first time in over a decade that an Egyptian head of state has attended the summit in person.

Morsi's predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, rarely visited Africa after an assassination attempt against him in Addis Ababa in 1995.

Egypt's ambassador to Ethiopia, Mohamed Edrees, said the visit could signal the start of a new era in Egypt's inter-Africa relations.

"Egypt has not given Africa enough high level attention in recent years, even though it is very important for us, but today this is changing," Edrees told Ahram Online.

"Africa is a crucial area of interest for Egypt – all of Africa and especially the Nile Basin countries," Edrees said, and the priority is development.

Securing a fair deal regarding the waters of the Nile with the Nile Basin countries is crucial, said Edrees. But to reach an agreement will take more than just a few meeting over the share of water each country can take from the river, he added.

"It will take a genuine interest and commitment on all sides working together in good faith towards making an agreement [on the Nile waters] by which the development concerns of each country are taken into consideration," Edrees stated.

Egypt and Sudan [now divided into two states], the two low stream countries of the Nile Basin, have been in dispute with the seven upstream countries over the latter's desire to alter the agreement that allocates the share of the Nile water to each country.

The upstream countries say the agreement was reached under Western occupation and should therefore be changed to meet current realities.

Therefore they have proposed an amendment that would reduce the amount of water allocated to Egypt and Sudan.

During the Mubarak era Egypt repeatedly refused any amendment to the agreement and insisted that its share would remain unaltered.

Egypt still wants to keep its share of the water but is now more open to accommodating the demands of the upstream countries, particularly Ethiopia, which wish to expand their water resources in order to generate electricity.

Egypt is working closely with all the concerned countries, especially Ethiopia, to examine a number of projects, including a controversial Ethiopian dam that is already under construction, said Edrees.

"We are working closely and in good faith with our African brothers and we understand their development needs. We do not contest the right of Ethiopia to fulfil its development needs but we want to make sure this does not damage our legitimate rights," said Edrees.

President Morsi did not discuss the Nile water issue in detail at the summit. The focus was mostly on expanding Egypt's cooperation with other African countries.

"We are pursuing all forms of cooperation: technical, agricultural, trade and investment," Edrees said.

"Once cooperation is well established all our differences will be easily sorted out," concluded Edrees.

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