President Sisi 'very statesman-like' in approach to GERD problem: Commander of US CENTCOM tells Ahram Online

Ahram Online , Monday 14 Feb 2022

General Kenneth F. McKenzie, commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), said on Wednesday that Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has been “very statesman-like” in his approach to the problem of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).


McKenzie, who is currently paying a visit to Egypt as part of his tour to the Middle East, told Ahram Online in an interview that the US is prepared to do whatever it can to help Egypt diplomatically resolve the GERD dispute.

Rounds of African Union-sponsored talks to resolve the decade-long dispute between Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan collapsed in April 2021. In September, 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 talks over the $4.8 billion Ethiopian hydropower project, 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.

“We [the US] are prepared to help in the future to get people [the three parties] back together. We are prepared to do anything we can to help Egypt to work at this [GERD] problem diplomatically, as I believe that is Egypt's intent to do,” McKenzie told Ahram Online.

On Monday, El-Sisi reiterated Egypt’s will to reach a legally binding agreement on the rules for filling and operating the GERD during a meeting with his Djiboutian counterpart Ismail Omar Guelleh in Cairo.

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.

El-Sisi stressed Egypt’s willingness 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.

“I think Egypt, like Washington, is committed to a diplomatic solution for the GERD crisis. And I believe that President Sisi has actually been very statesman-like in his approach to this problem, seeking to avoid military action, and instead, finding a way to negotiate a settlement that all parties can actually live with,” McKenzie said in the interview on Wednesday.

Last June, McKenzie said that the US recognizes “the unique importance” of the Nile to Egypt, not only culturally but also for water supply and for the general economy.

Egypt, whose 102 million-plus population is expected to increase by 75 million in 2050, is considered one of the most water-scarce countries in the world as it receives around 60 billion cubic metres (bcm) annually – mainly from the River Nile – though its needs are at 114 bcm.

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