Egyptian parliament postpones GERD meeting amid coronavirus measures

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 17 Mar 2020

The meeting was aimed to discuss the latest developments in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) issue

File photo: Egyptian parliament (Photo: Reuters)
File photo: Egyptian parliament (Photo: Reuters)

The precautionary measures taken by Egypt to contain the coronavirus have led parliament's foreign affairs committee to postpone its meeting to discuss the possibility of Egypt boycotting companies participating in the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

The secretary-general of the House of Representatives Mahmoud Fawzy said in a statement that upon the orders of parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal, the House's main halls and rooms will be sterilised in order to prevent any viral infiltration.

"This will include the main hall of plenary meetings and rooms of the House's 25 committees," said Fawzi, adding that upon Abdel-Aal's orders, “the army will participate in sterilising and sanitising the House's main building.”

Fawzi also said that half the staff at the House will go on leave for two weeks starting Tuesday. The House staff will be required to leave on 12 o'clock.

Parliament is scheduled to hold plenary meetings on 29 March.

On Monday, Karim Darwish, head of the foreign affairs committee, said the committee would hold an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday to discuss the necessity of Egypt taking measures against contracting companies participating in the building of the GERD.

"This is part of Egypt's current efforts aimed at safeguarding its water security and preserving Egypt's rights to the Nile water," said Darwish, adding that "MPs who asked for holding this urgent meeting recommend that the government take measures against international contracting companies participating in the building of the GERD."

"These companies have interests and contracts in Egypt," said Darwish, adding that "we recommend the government suspend all contracts with these companies and stop any deals with them in the future."

Egypt initialled an agreement on the GERD during Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry's visit to Washington last month and after four months of negotiations. Ethiopia refused to attend the Washington meetings on 27 and 28 February, saying it would first need to make national consultations before it signs the agreement.

On 28 February, US Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement that the four-month talks resulted in an agreement that addresses all issues on the GERD in a balanced and equitable manner, taking into account the interests of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.

"We appreciate the readiness of the government of Egypt to sign the agreement and its initialling of the agreement is evidence of its commitment, and we recognise that Ethiopia continues its national consultations, and look forward to it concluding its process as soon as possible," said Mnuchin, adding that the "filling of GERD should not take place without an agreement, and the US reaffirms its commitment to remaining engaged with the three countries until they sign the final agreement." 

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