US backs talks to resolve GERD dispute: Blinken

Zeinab El-Gundy , Monday 8 Nov 2021

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken affirmed on Monday the US’ support for a negotiated agreement on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) dispute between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia that will address the interest of all parties including Egypt's water needs.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (C) speaks during remarks on the Havana Syndrome, in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department in Washington, DC on November 5, 2021. AFP

Blinken said that the GERD issue, alongside the latest developments in Ethiopia, is among the main issues set to be discussed with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry in the US-Egypt Strategic Dialogue, which kicked off in Washington on Monday after a six-year halt.

In the opening statements for the dialogue in Washington, the US secretary of state praised Egypt’s key role in Libya in pushing forward an inclusive political process and for elections to be held on time in December.

Blinken said that both the US and Egypt are working together to help the Libyans resolve pressing economic issues, including the unification of the Libyan Central Bank.

“We very much agree on the full withdrawal of foreign forces, fighters and mercenaries from the country,” Blinken said.

Egypt has maintained its official stance of demanding the full withdrawal of foreign forces from Libya immediately to ensure stability for the whole region.

Blinken also praised the vital role Egyptian mediation played in securing a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza in May as well as how Egypt committed $500 million to the Gaza reconstruction project.

Regarding the ongoing situation in Sudan, the secretary of state said both the US and Egypt share common interest in getting the country’s democratic transition back on track.

Blinken condemned the military takeover of 25 October, demanded the release of the Sudanese detainees and praised the Sudanese protesters for their ongoing demonstrations.

“We share serious concerns regarding Iran’s destabilising influence in the region, including its support of terrorism, its domestic ballistic missile programs and the practice of arbitrary detention of foreign nationals, including US citizens, to exert political pressure,” Blinken said, stressing that Iran would be an even greater destabilising force with a nuclear program.

On Sunday, Egypt’s FM Shoukry met US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley.

Human rights, climate change and COVID-19

Regarding the human rights situation in Egypt, Blinken said, “We welcome Egypt’s launch of the national strategy for human rights and are committed to working together on human rights goals, like refining the pre-trial detention regulations and protecting freedom of the press and expression.”

For his part, Shoukry said that the launching of the national strategy for human rights and the recent presidential decree ending the state of emergency in Egypt are evidence of Egypt’s commitment to the advancing human rights.

Blinken also spoke about the collaboration between the two countries in facing challenges like the coronavirus and climate change.

Regarding climate change, Blinken praised President El-Sisi’s commitment at COP26 to doubling Egypt’s dependence on renewable fuels to 40 percent by 2030 and reducing subsidies for fossil fuels.

“We are looking forward to partnering with Egypt as it takes this transition [from fossil fuel to renewable energy] through a visit by US companies to the country to be part of this transition,” he said, announcing the launch of a new US-Egypt climate working group.

Blinken also said the US welcomes Egypt’s bid to host COP27 next year.

On the coronavirus, Blinken said that the US has provided Egypt with more than 8 million doses of vaccines through the COVAX initiative, in addition to $55 million in assistance to the healthcare sector.

Economic cooperation

Blinken said that the US wants to deepen economic relations with Egypt in a way that benefits both peoples, and revealed that a new joint economic commission is being launched this week.

Shoukry stressed the necessity of continuing cooperation between Egypt and the US in trade, energy, research, technology, higher education, cultural exchange and healthcare.

The FM said that over the past 10 years, Egypt has achieved stability plays a major role in stabilising the region.

The US-Egypt Strategic Dialogue was first launched in the mid-1990s, lasting until 2009 when it was halted, before resuming in 2015.

On Thursday, the US Department of State expressed its commitment to strengthening the 40-year US-Egypt partnership by enhancing security cooperation, advancing human rights, and growing economic relations and cultural ties.

Shoukry, who is currently in Washington with a delegation of officials from different ministries, is set to meet a number of US officials, congressmen, and members of the most prominent US think tanks.

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