Egypt says ready to resume GERD talks with Ethiopia if there is ‘political will’ to reach deal

Amr Kandil , Sunday 23 Jan 2022

Egypt is always prepared to resume talks with Ethiopia regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in case a “political will” is present to reach an agreement, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Sunday.

Egypt Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Omani counterpart Minister Sayyid Badr Albusaidi hold a press conference in Muscat, 23 January 2022. Egyptian foreign ministry

Shoukry made the remarks during a joint press conference in Muscat with his Omani counterpart, Sayyid Badr Albusaidi, Egyptian state’s news agency MENA reported.

Albusaidi affirmed Oman’s support for the GERD negotiations, hailing the Egyptian stance as rational. Oman hopes that an agreement that meets the interests of all countries is reached.

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

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.

Last week, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed called on the two downstream countries to “nurture” the “narrative towards building peace, cooperation and mutual coexistence” without harming the interests of one another, claiming that the GERD holds “multiple benefits” for Egypt and Sudan.

During the presser, Shoukry said Egypt was not responsible for the interruption of GERD negotiations, affirming their keenness to reach a legally binding agreement on the mega dam in accordance with the rules of the international law and practices.

Shoukry said such a legally binding agreement should meet the needs of all the parties, including Ethiopia’s right to development as well as the right of Egypt and Sudan to their share of Nile water.

Bringing Syria back to Arab League

During the press conference, the top Egyptian diplomat expressed hope that conditions are met for Syria to return to the Arab League and become a supportive element to the Arab national security.

Egypt will continue to communicate with other Arab countries to achieve this, Shoukry said, calling for the Syrian government to take the required measures to facilitate Syria’s return to the Arab League.

During an emergency session in Cairo in November 2011, the Arab League voted to suspend Syria’s membership in the organisation over the government’s failure to implement the terms of the league's peace plan to stop deadly crackdowns against pro-democracy protesters.

The league also decided to hit the Syrian government with economic and political sanctions and called for Arab countries to withdraw ambassadors from Syria.

Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Damascus in the early years of the Syrian conflict and proposed initiatives to resolve the crisis that were turned down by the Bashar Al-Assad regime.

Cairo has since taken a middle-of-the-road position, focusing on the need for peace, finding a political solution to the crisis, guaranteeing Syria’s unity and an end to terrorism.

A number of Arab countries, including Egypt and the UAE, have recently called for accepting Syria back into the Arab League to maintain Arab security.

In an interview with Sky News published on 21 December last year, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said no Arab country has submitted an official request regarding accepting Syria back into Arab League. In October, he affirmed that Syria’s return to the organisation will need a consensus among Arab nations.

Bilateral relations, Cooperation MoUs

Shoukry and Albusaidi signed earlier on Sunday six memoranda of understanding (MoUs) to boost bilateral cooperation and conclude the 15th session of the Egyptian-Omani Joint Committee in Muscat.

According to a joint statement issued by both foreign ministries, these MoUs and executive programmes aim to boost bilateral cooperation in political, economic, industrial, judicial, and development projects.

The two delegations signed an MoU between the Egyptian and Omani foreign ministries concerning political consultations, an MoU in the field of housing and urban development, as well as an MoU in the field of media.

They also signed an executive programme for a cooperation agreement in the legal and judicial field, a programme in the field of tourism, in addition to another programme agreement between the Egyptian and Omani education ministries.

On Saturday, the Egyptian and Omani foreign ministers attended the third round of the Egypt-Oman joint business council. During the meeting, Shoukry urged the Omani private sector and businessmen to consolidate their presence in the Egyptian market and maximise Omani direct investments.

During Sunday’s press conference, Shoukry said Egypt and Oman are working to boost trade exchange and remove related obstacles, adding that Egypt can be an access point for the Omani products to African and European markets.

He described the recent consultations between the two countries as fruitful, calling on the Egypt-Oman business council and the private sector to exert greater efforts to boost trade exchange between the two countries.

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