Egypt rejects unilateral decisions that harm peoples dependent on Nile for 'life and development': Sisi

Mai Ghandour, Saturday 26 Mar 2022

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi reiterated to his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame Egypt's rejection of any unilateral decision that could harm the peoples of any Nile Basin country who depend on the Nile River as "the only tributary for life and development."

Presidents Sisi - Kagame
Presidents Sisi and Kagame at Ittihadiya Palace on 26 March, 2022. Ahram

"We discussed developments in the [Grand Ethiopian] Renaissance Dam file, I reiterated the importance we place on cooperation between the Nile Basin countries from the vantage point of safeguarding the common interests of all of them," El-Sisi said during a press conference with Kagame after the two leaders held talks at the Ittihadiya Palace in Cairo on Saturday.

"Egypt rejects any unilateral decision that could harm the capabilities of the peoples who depend on the Nile as the only tributary for life and development," the Egyptian president added in the press conference.

Earlier in the day, El-Sisi received Kagame at the presidential palace in Heliopolis, where the national anthems of both countries were played and the two leaders reviewed the honour guards.

El-Sisi and Kagame witnessed the signing of five Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) for cooperation between the Egypt and the Nile Basin country before the start of the press conference.

"I also stressed the necessity of reaching a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the Renaissance Dam in an appropriate timeframe, in a way that bolsters regional security and stability based on the rules of international law and the decisions of the UN Security Council," the president added.

In mid-February, Addis Ababa started the operation of two turbines in the mega dam, in a unilateral step that both downstream countries - Egypt and Sudan - labeled a “breach" of the Declaration of Principles (DoP) that was signed in 2015.

In a decade of negotiations with Egypt and Sudan, Ethiopia refused to sign any legally binding agreements on the operation and filling of the GERD.

Egypt, which fears the dam will affect its historic share of the Nile water, has maintained its support for the right of Ethiopia to develop its economy, insisting, however, that Addis Ababa should not do so at the expense of the interests of downstream countries.

Several attempts at mediation between Egypt and Sudan, and Ethiopia by the African Union (AU) and the US failed due to Ethiopian intransigence.

Last year, Egypt also took its cause to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), which encouraged Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to revive African-led GERD negotiations to thrash out a legally binding deal on the dam filling and operation process within a reasonable timeframe

In early March,  Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry accused Ethiopia of “unilaterally exploiting international rivers” during a speech at the 157th ordinary session of the Arab League Council at the ministerial level in Cairo.

“These violations of Ethiopia’s obligations under international law come in light of a firmly-established Ethiopian policy that is based on the unilateral exploitation of international rivers,” Shoukry said, indicating that this policy has caused severe damage to Ethiopia’s neighbours.

African development

"We discussed issues of security and development in Africa and the spread of terrorism, which hampers the development process in Africa," El-Sisi added.

"I reviewed Egypt's efforts in combating terrorism, including Egypt's establishment  of the Sahel-Saharan Center for Combatting Terrorism," El-Sisi said.

"We hail the Rwandan efforts in United Nations peacekeeping operations in Africa," he stressed.

For his part, the Rwandan president praised the pivotal role played by Egypt regionally in maintaining peace and security.

Kagame also hailed the Egyptian efforts to achieve stability in the Great Lakes region, east Africa, and the Nile Basin.

El-Sisi affirmed in the presser that Egypt aims through its presidency of 27th session of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), which will be held in Sharm El-Sheikh in November 2022, to convey the aspirations of the entire African continent vis-a-vis climate change and transform them into tangible results in action.

Economic cooperation

The five MoUs that were signed cover information technology, diplomatic training, sports, youth and antiquities.

According to a statement by Presidential Spokesman Bassam Rady, the meeting witnessed discussions of cooperation in different fields, followed by extensive discussions between the delegations of the two countries.

The two parties discussed further cooperation in various fields, especially at the economic, commercial, security and military levels, the statement added.

It noted a joint committee between the two countries will convene as soon as possible.

The committee would aim to strengthen coordination and consultation and exchange views between the two sides within the framework of the AU.

“Today, we discussed the progress made in various aspects of bilateral relations during the past period and the serious steps to advance and develop relations at the political, economic and security levels. We agreed that despite the many achievements we have made in developing these relations, there are still many opportunities for development,” El-Sisi said during the press conference with the Rwandan president.

From his side, President Kagame expressed his country's great appreciation for its long and distinguished historical relations with Egypt, stressing Rwanda's keenness to develop these relations in various fields, especially trade and economic cooperation, as well as his country's interest in maximising the technical support provided by Egypt in the areas of capacity building.

Last December, Egyptian FM Shoukry visited Rwanda to take part in a celebration to mark laying the foundation stone of the Magdi Yacoub Heart Centre in Kigali.

The Egyptian foreign ministry will fund the processes of purchasing and equipping the centre's first phase through the Egyptian Agency of Partnership for Development (EAPD).

Established in July 2014 by Egyptian President El-Sisi as the first South-South cooperation institution in Egypt, the EAPD is meant to put the country’s advantages and technical expertise into play for the benefit of the South, especially Africa and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

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