All options are on the table to deal with GERD crisis: Egyptian Foreign Minister

Ahram Online , Monday 14 Jun 2021

The foreign minister also spoke about Egypt's support for talks between Palestinian factions, the resumption of relations with Qatar, and preconditions for normalisation of ties with Turkey

Sameh Shoukry
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (AFP)

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Monday that all options are on the table to deal with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) crisis, stressing that the country has the capability to defend its interests in the water issue.

Nevertheless, Shoukry stated in an interview with Al Jazeera News Channel that Egypt is working with international partners in order to find a diplomatic solution on the GERD crisis, which is considered an existential matter.

The Egyptian foreign minister is currently in Doha to attend a meeting on Tuesday that will be held by the Arab League to discuss the means of dealing with foreign interference in Arab regional security matters and reaffirming Arab solidarity with Egypt and Sudan over the GERD crisis.

“The meeting of the Arab foreign ministers on Tuesday in Doha is a strong political expression and a message which Ethiopia must consider,” Shoukry told Al Jazeera.

“We have always depended on the Arab states to safeguard Arab national security, and Egypt’s as well as Sudan’s water rights are considered part of this national security,” he said, adding that the deadlocked GERD talks now require “An Arab meeting to solve this crisis.”

Both Egypt and Sudan are demanding Ethiopia submit to a legally binding agreement on the GERD’s operation before they proceed with the second filling of the dam in July.

The last round of talks between the three countries was held in April in Kinshasa where it reached a deadlock and failed to reach to any result.

Egypt sent a letter to the UN Security Council on Friday denouncing the unilateral actions of Ethiopia.

Palestinian factions meeting in Cairo

Asked about the meeting between Palestinian factions in Cairo last week, the foreign minister revealed that they did hold a consultative meeting, but returned back to the Palestinian territories for further discussions with their respective leadership.

Shoukry added that soon there will be new rounds of dialogue in Cairo.

“The Palestinian factions agree on the importance of achieving unity, but there are complications in the political process and we are working to solve those complications,” said Shoukry, declining to elaborate specifically on those complications.

“We {as Egypt} try to facilitate the matter for them but in the end it is a Palestinian-Palestinian issue,” he added.

Concerning the recent news reports about the exchange of prisoners between Hamas and Israel as part of the ceasefire deal which Egypt brokered last month, the foreign minister only said that Egypt has all its channels open in order to secure the ceasefire without giving any further details.

Egypt and Qatar relations

Speaking about Egyptian-Qatari relations following its resumption in January, FM Shoukry said that there is political will in Cairo and Doha to “turn the page” and to explore new fields of cooperation.

“There is an issue or two we are working to resolve with Qatar,” he told Al Jazeera.

The foreign minister’s visit to Doha is the first of its kind since the signing of the Al-Ulah Declaration in January that ended the rift between Qatar and Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE since mid-2017.

Shoukry’s visit comes a few weeks after his Qatari counterpart led a delegation on a visit to Cairo, during which he met President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and extended an official invitation to visit the Gulf country.

The quartet cut diplomatic, economic, and travel ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing Doha of interfering in their internal affairs and supporting terrorist groups, charges denied by Qatar.

Egypt, Turkey and Libya

Egypt’s foreign minister also told Al Jazeera that there was still reservation regarding Turkey’s policies, whether on a bilateral level or regional level.

“We are looking forward to relations with Turkey on the basis of mutual respect,” he said, adding that currently Egypt will continue to evaluate their relationship, especially after the exploratory meetings between the two countries.

Egyptian and Turkish diplomatic officials held two days of consultations in Cairo on normalising relations in May that have been severely strained since 2013.

Concerning Libya, Shoukry stated the existence of foreign fighting forces including Turkish forces should not continue as there is no justification for their presence.

“Egypt demands the immediat exit of all mercenaries and foreign fighters who threaten the Egyptian national security from Libya,” he told Al Jazeera, adding that Egypt was keen to cooperate with the international community.

When asked about the human rights situation in Egypt, the Egyptian foreign minister said that Cairo was dealing with the human rights file in a transparent way and that what was being promoted about it contradicted the reality.

Asked about the Egyptian relations with the US and Russia as well as China, Shoukry stated that Egypt was following balanced relations with other countries, rather than polarised.

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