Egypt keen to reach 'comprehensive legally-binding agreement' on Ethiopia’s GERD: Sisi

Ahram Online , Wednesday 12 Jan 2022

Egypt is keen to reach "a comprehensive legally-binding agreement" on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which would take into consideration Egypt’s concerns, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said on Wednesday.

Egypt s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi speaks during the third day of the fourth edition of the World Youth Forum (WYF) in Sharm El-Sheikh city, 12 January 2021. Egyptian Presidency

El-Sisi made the remarks in a meeting with international media representatives on the sidelines of the fourth edition of the World Youth Forum (WYF), which is being held in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh between 10 and 13 January.

El-Sisi spoke about the GERD dispute that Egypt and Sudan have with Ethiopia, saying the crisis should be resolved with dialogue.

Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia have all expressed their readiness to resume the African Union-sponsored talks, which stalled in April last year over “Ethiopia’s intransigence,” according to the two downstream countries.

In September, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) issued a presidential statement encouraging the three countries to resume negotiations, under the auspices of the AU.

The statement urged the countries to “finalise expeditiously the text of [a] mutually acceptable and binding agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD.”

Egypt and Sudan have continued to demand that a legally-binding agreement is reached on GERD to guarantee their water interests and the right of their peoples to the Nile water and prevent any harms to Sudanese dams.

Despite warnings from Egypt and Sudan about any unilateral steps regarding GERD before said agreement is reached, Ethiopia implemented the second phase of filling the dam in July without the two countries’ consent.

Situation in Sudan

In his remarks during the meeting, El-Sisi also said all actors in Sudan need to reach a political consensus.

The president affirmed Egypt’s support for dialogue between all Sudanese parties to reach a roadmap that ends with elections that allow people to select their leaders.

Sudan has witnessed a political turbulence and demonstrations since 25 October after army chief General Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan declared a state of emergency, ousted the government and detained the civilian leadership.

Earlier this month, Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok stepped down in a televised speech after the conflicting parties failed to reach a compromise.

Egypt urged all Sudanese parties to select a new transitional prime minister consensually and to form a government in the shortest time possible, a statement by the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs read on Saturday.

The ministry affirmed Egypt’s support for the United Nations' calls for activating dialogue between Sudanese parties to overcome the current crisis and prevent chaos.

Egypt expressed its readiness to support the new Sudanese government by all possible means, the statement noted, adding that "the security and stability of Sudan are integral for those of Egypt and the region."

Reaching COP27 goals

In his remarks, El-Sisi said Egypt is exerting much effort with international parties to ensure reaching goals during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27), which will be held in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh in November.

In a pre-recorded speech by El-Sisi in the World Leaders Summit on Climate Change on the sidelines of the 76th United Nations General Assembly in September, El-Sisi vowed that Egypt’s hosting of the conference would be a major turning point in the global fight against climate change.

While during his speech delivered to the UN COP26 in Glasgow in November, El-Sisi assured that Egypt would seek during its presidency of the COP27 to enhance international climate action to achieve the goals of the Paris agreement, which will achieve the interests of the global community.

He also affirmed the need to preserve the Paris Climate Accords to ensure the bolstering of efforts to reduce emissions and adapt to the negative implications of climate change.

The Paris Climate Accords — adopted at the COP21 and signed by over 190 states including Egypt — came into effect in 2016 with the aim of reducing global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius in this century.

Egypt, Greece’s maritime demarcation deal

Asked about Egypt and Greece’s exclusive economic zone and Turkey’s alleged offer to Egypt for another maritime demarcation deal with better returns than the one with Greece, the Egyptian president affirmed that Egypt is committed to the existing deal with Greece.

“Concerning the maritime demarcation with Greece, we are committed to it as a state and we are continuing in this commitment; I think this is a definitive answer,” President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said.

The process of negotiating exclusive economic zones between Egypt and Greece was launched over three years ago during a visit by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to Athens, where he and then Greek prime minister Alexi Tsipras agreed that to help each country benefit from the possible resources of its national waters an agreement needed to be signed.

Egypt and Greece signed the demarcation deal in August 2020 establishing an exclusive economic zone between the two countries

The agreement drew the ire of Turkey, which claimed that the agreement was “null and void” because it included parts of Turkey’s continental shelf.

Egypt and Turkey started exploratory talks in May for the first time after nearly eight years of frozen relations in a bid to mend fences damaged since the 2013 ouster of late Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi, who was backed by the government of Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president and then prime minister.

Egypt’s financial and economic situation

President El-Sisi stated that Egypt needs about $20 billion annually in order to cover expenditures.

Egypt's economic and financial situation cannot be compared with some European and foreign countries, he noted.

El-Sisi said that his approach to the economy is not the only option, and that other countries should not necessarily adopt it.

"The past 10-year period has not been long enough to judge whether the change that has taken place in the region has been for the better," he said, stressing the need for gradual development.

The president said although it is correct that the poverty rate in Egypt is high, he pointed out that the country has a population of 100 million.

All the state’s available funds accounts for only 10 percent of needed expenditures for such a populous country like Egypt, which requires a trillion dollars to deal with these issues.

The Egyptian president stated that the country’s tourism industry has been hit hard over the past few years, and thus was not a stable source of income for Egypt.

He also pointed out that the country's yearly revenues from tourism reached nearly $14 billion before 2011, adding that the events of the Egyptian revolution that year greatly affected the tourism industry.

Freedom of expression and opinion in Egypt

The president of Egypt underlined that freedom of expression and opinion is guaranteed in the country, saying that he accepts constructive criticism that contributes to advancing the state and not destroying it.

He urged mass media to be objective when covering issues in the country.

El-Sisi asserted his keenness to listen to other opinions, warning at the same time about the danger of imposing anyone’s views on a country.

This is the approach of extremist religious groups, the president added.

In this regard, he emphasised the need to believe in pluralism, diversity and difference, not only from a religious perspective, but also from cultural, intellectual and political ones.

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said that the gains achieved over the past seven years have been due to security and stability in the Egyptian street.

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