Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi affirmed to his Burundian counterpart on Wednesday that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) represents an “existential” issue that affects the lives of millions of Egyptian people.
President Évariste Ndayishimiye of the Nile Basin country arrived in Cairo on Tuesday night in an official visit to discuss bilateral cooperation. He and El-Sisi met earlier on Wednesday and held a press conference following their talks.
As they held a press conference in Cairo, El-Sisi said he had affirmed during the talks with Ndayishimiye the need to reach an agreement among the three countries of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia on the dam.
“I affirmed the necessity of seeking to reach a legally binding agreement that organises the process of filling and operation of the Renaissance Dam as soon as possible,” the president said.
He added that the agreement should be reached “away from any unilateral approach that seeks to impose the fait accompli and ignore the basic rights of the peoples.”
Egypt and Sudan have been in a dispute with Ethiopia over the filling and operating of the massive dam on the Blue Nile.
Egypt and Sudan require that a binding agreement among the three countries be reached before Ethiopia completes the dam filling. Ethiopia, however, reiterated its plans to fill the dam in July with or without an agreement.
According to Presidential Spokesman Bassam Rady, El-Sisi and Ndayishimiye witnessed the signing of some memoranda of understanding (MoUs) in various fields.
“I have affirmed Egypt’s keenness to develop and deepen all forms of the ongoing cooperation between the two countries,” El-Sisi said during the press conference.
The fields addressed in the signed MoUs include the integrated management of Burundian water resources and the mutual visa exemption for passengers of both countries who carry official passports.
The signed MoUs are also concerned with the fields of education, culture, tourism, and media, according to the presidential spokesman.
The Egyptian president said they have discussed means to enhance the ongoing cooperation between the two countries in the fields of water resources and irrigation.
El-Sisi said they have also reviewed their mutual efforts to maximise the sustainable use of the water resources of the Nile River.
“We have confirmed our vision to make the Nile River a source of cooperation and development as a lifeline for all the peoples of the Nile Basin countries,” El-Sisi said.
He added that the bilateral relations with Burundi have witnessed much progress during recent years to achieve the interests of their peoples.
El-Sisi said that economic cooperation has been a key issue during his talks today with Ndayishimiye.
“I have affirmed Egypt’s readiness to develop this cooperation in a way that achieves the development goals of the two countries at the level of each of trade and investment exchange,” El-Sisi said.
El-Sisi said he discussed with the Burundian president means to facilitate the work of Egyptian companies willing to access the Burundian market.
The Egyptian president said they also agreed on intensifying cooperation to transfer Egyptian expertise and provide technical support to Burundi.
An agreement was also made to enhance cooperation in building the capabilities of Burundian cadres through continuing the training programs provided by the Egyptian Agency of Partnership for Development.
“Egypt will remain a key partner for [Burundi] in your efforts to achieve progress and will provide all possible assistance and support to the sisterly Republic of Burundi to achieve the development goals and plans,” El-Sisi said.
El-Sisi said he and Ndayishimiye have discussed many bilateral and regional issues of mutual concern, noting that their discussions “have been dominated by the spirit of understanding and coordination.”
During their talks before the press conference, Ndayishimiye hailed the pivotal role Egypt plays to preserve regional peace and security.
He praised Egypt’s positions aiming to achieve stability in The African Great Lakes, East Africa, and the Nile Basin.