Egypt has political will to reach binding deal on GERD, Sisi tells Guelleh

Ahram Online , Monday 7 Feb 2022

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has reiterated Egypt’s political will to reach a legally binding agreement on the rules for filling and operating the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) during a meeting with his Djiboutian counterpart Ismail Omar Guelleh in Cairo.


President El-Sisi received Guelleh at Cairo International Airport on Monday. An Egyptian presidential statement welcomed Guelleh, describing him as "the dear guest of his second country, Egypt."

El-Sisi embarked on an official visit to Djibouti in May last year, the first official visit by an Egyptian president to the African country since its independence in the 1977.

At a joint press conference with Guelleh at Cairo's Al-Ittihadiya Palace following their meeting on Monday, El-Sisi said he “appreciates very much” his recent visit to Djibouti, noting that Guelleh’s current visit is a continuation of their coordination on all levels.

Reaching GERD agreement

El-Sisi said he discussed with the Djiboutian president the latest developments in the GERD file and other regional issues.

El-Sisi affirmed to Guelleh Egypt’s will to reach a GERD deal within "an appropriate timeframe in a manner that enhances regional security and stability, based on the rules of law and the decisions of the Security Council."

Rounds of African Union-sponsored talks to resolve the decade-long dispute between Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan collapsed in April. In September last year, the UN Security Council adopted a draft presidential statement calling on the three countries to resume negotiations under the auspices of the AU.

Various attempts to revive the talks, whether through the African Union or the US envoy to the African Horn, have failed, but the three countries have expressed willingness to resume the stalks under the AU.

Egypt and Sudan have been negotiating with Ethiopia for 10 years now to reach a legally binding agreement that regulates the rules for filling and operating the dam, a proposal that has been repeatedly turned down by Ethiopia.

Establishing security in Horn of Africa, Red Sea

During Monday’s presser, El-Sisi said the regional situation in the Horn of Africa was prioritised in his discussions with Guelleh in light of “the epicentres of tensions” this area contains.

“This is in addition to working to establish security and stability in this important part of our continent and intensifying cooperation and coordination between Egypt and Djibouti regarding the Red Sea security,” El-Sisi added.

El-Sisi said he and Guelleh also highlighted the “responsibility the riparian countries shoulder to formulate all policies related to this vital waterway from an integrated perspective that takes into consideration the developmental, economic, and security aspects.”

Guelleh said he and El-Sisi affirmed the “importance of activating cooperation to establish regional security and stability and working to enhance cooperation and achieve integration.”

El-Sisi said his discussions with Guelleh were characterised by “frankness and transparency and reflected the convergence of our views on many bilateral and regional files and issues of common concern.”

Confidence in Egypt hosting COP27

Guelleh, during the presser, renewed congratulations to El-Sisi on Egypt being selected to host the 27th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27) in November this year in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh.

“This reflects the international appreciation of [Egypt’s] efforts to protect the environment and its role in facing the impacts of climate change locally and internationally,” Guelleh said.

“We affirm our confidence in Egypt’s capabilities and sagacity to make the anticipated summit a success,” the Djiboutian president added.

El-Sisi said he stressed to Guelleh Egypt’s keenness to speak about the developments in Africa regarding the climate file during COP27.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry affirmed that Egypt will speak up for Africa's aspirations to cope with climate change during COP27 in a meeting of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC) on the sidelines of the two-day 35th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly, which kicked off on Saturday in Addis Ababa.

As the host of COP27, Egypt would adopt "a comprehensive approach that takes into account the concerns and priorities of the various parties," Shoukry said, calling on African countries to support Egyptian efforts in a way that contributes to the success of the conference.

Boosting economic cooperation

During the presser, El-Sisi said he reviewed with Guelleh boosting the ongoing cooperation between the two countries, especially the economic and commercial relations and investments, so that they cope with their special political relations.

“We have agreed on the importance of joint work to secure the support required for boosting joint investments and … highlighted the need for boosting trade volume between the two countries,” El-Sisi said.

In 2016, El-Sisi received Guelleh in Cairo, where they stressed the importance of enhancing economic and trade cooperation and signed seven MoUs in various fields, including agriculture, technical education, maritime ports and health.

The value of trade exchange between Egypt and Djibouti rose to $48.01 million in 2018, compared to $37.99 million in 2017, according to official figures by the Egyptian Commercial Service.

El-Sisi, during Monday’s presser, also affirmed the importance of the Egyptian companies’ contribution to the economic development efforts in Djibouti, highlighting efforts to open a branch of the Egyptian state-owned Banque Misr.

El-Sisi also underscored efforts to establish an Egyptian logistics zone in Djibouti, saying he discussed with Guelleh enhancing cooperation in the fields of transport and ports linkage as well as the efforts to launch a direct flight service between Cairo and Djibouti.

In March last year, an Egyptian delegation that included representatives from different ministries and companies as well as businessmen visited Djibouti to boost bilateral ties.

During the visit, the Djiboutian side agreed to give a license to an Egyptian company to operate flights between the capitals of the two countries to facilitate the movement of passengers and goods, the Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement without naming the company.

Djibouti also allowed an Egyptian bank to operate in the country, the statement added.

The Egyptian delegation, led by Assistant Foreign Minister for African Affairs Sherif Eissa, held talks with senior officials in Djibouti, with Egypt's Ambassador to Djibouti Mohamed Moustafa attending.

Diverse ties, anti-extremism efforts

Guelleh said he agreed with El-Sisi on the vitality of boosting cooperation between the two countries in various priority fields, at the top of which is trade, investments, industry, health, tourism, security, and culture.

“This is in addition to the sectors of energy, transport, infrastructure, and capacity building, in a way that paves the way for a new phase of partnership between the two sisterly countries,” Guelleh added.

Guelleh said his visit to Egypt after El-Sisi’s visit to Djibouti last year reflects the “firm strategic relations with Egypt at all levels… and the strong political will to expand these relations.”

In August last year, on the heels of El-Sisi's visit, Egypt announced that it will start the construction of a giant obstetrics, gynaecology and paediatrics hospital in Djibouti, which will be the first specialised hospital in the African country.

The planned hospital is a gift from the Egyptian people to the people of Djibouti and reflects the good and brotherly relations between the two countries, Djiboutian Health Minister Ahmed Abdilleh said.

Egypt also backed the health sector in Djibouti last year amid the coronavirus pandemic by sending several planes carrying medical aid.

During the presser, El-Sisi said he discussed with Guelleh cooperation in the field of countering extremism and training Muslim preachers by spreading the moderate values of Islam through the prestigious religious institutions in the two countries, at the top of which is Al-Azhar.

During the Egyptian delegation’s visit to Djibouti in March, the two sides discussed scholarships given by Egypt's Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world’s top religious institution, along with training more Djiboutian preachers, and setting up Al-Azhar Institute in Djibouti.

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