In a speech at the University of Belgrade after receiving an honorary doctorate, El-Sisi said that water scarcity and desertification are among the current issues facing the international community, especially with their impact on achieving sustainable development.
The president added that there must be respect for the universal principles governing the use of shared bodies of water, at the top of which is achieving common interests in a balanced way that meets countries’ needs.
“Egypt has taken the negotiations path in the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) based on its belief in developing Egyptian-Ethiopian relations,” El-Sisi said about the decade-long talks between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia.
He added that expanding cooperation between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia will enable solving the GERD issue.
Egypt has been supporting development projects in Nile basin countries to support development including dams projects like Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere Hydroelectric Power Project (JNHPP).
Egypt and Sudan, the two downstream countries, have been involved in decade-long talks with Addis Ababa over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
Egypt has been concerned that the filling and operation of the GERD will harm its historic share of the Nile water.
Meanwhile, Sudan is worried about the impact of the GERD on regulating flows to its own dams.
El-Sisi said on Thursday that a balanced and fair legal agreement between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam would allow Addis Ababa to achieve its development as Cairo and Khartoum preserve their water rights.
“Reaching a fair and balanced agreement on the issue of the GERD will enable Ethiopia to achieve its development and increase its capacity in generating electricity while at the same time protecting Egypt and Sudan’s rights,” he said.
According to the Egyptian president, this will be achieved through a legally binding agreement with Ethiopia on the filling and operation of the dam.
Egypt and Sudan, who do not oppose the GERD, have sought to reach a binding deal with Ethiopia on the filling and operation of the dam. Ethiopia has rejected all such attempts.
In the absence of a legally binding deal, Ethiopia unilaterally completed the first and second filling of the dam, and started earlier this year operating the first turbine of the GERD to generate power.
It also seeks to start the third filling in August and September, according to a recent announcement by the GERD project manager.
Some 85 percent of the Nile’s waters in Egypt flow from the Ethiopian highlands through the Blue Nile — one of the Nile’s two main tributaries, along with the White Nile.
Egypt, which is considered one of the most water-scarce countries in the world, receives around 60 billion cubic metres (bcm) annually, mainly from the Nile.
However, the water needs of Egypt – with a population of over 102 million and growing – stand at around 114 bcm, placing the country well below the international threshold for water scarcity at 560 cubic metres per person annually.