Nile water an existential issue for Egyptians, Sisi tells AU chair

Ahram Online , Friday 17 Jul 2020

Sisi, Ramaphosa
File photo: Egypt's president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi with South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa (photo courtesy of the official Facebook page of the Egyptian presidency spokesman)

Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has told South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the current chairman of the African Union, that Nile water is an existential issue for the Egyptian people, El-Sisi’s spokesman Bassam Rady said.

El-Sisi received a phone call from Ramaphosa on Friday to discuss the recently concluded round of tripartite talks on the the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, which was held under the aegis of the AU.

The Egyptian president reiterated the fundamentals of Egypt's situation. based on what the Nile water represents as an existential issue for the Egyptian people.

El-Sisi stressed the importance of forging a comprehensive legal agreement between all parties concerning the rules for filling and operating the dam, and rejecting unilateral measures that would inflict harm upon Egypt's rights to the water of the Nile.

He also lauded the efforts exerted by the AU chairman in this respect.

Ramaphosa heaped praise on "the constructive approach" Egypt has taken during the recent negotiations which he considered a reflection of “the honest Egyptian will” to resolve the dispute, said Rady.

The two leaders agreed to continue intensive coordination between both countries with regard to this vital issue, the Egyptian spokesman added.

On 3 July, Cairo, Addis Ababa, and Khartoum began new talks, in response to a call from Ramaphosa, in a bid to resolve the decade-long disagreements over the mega-dam, which is under construction on the Blue Nile.

The talks wrapped up on Monday with no major breakthrough, according to the three countries.

Friday's phone call comes two days after contradictory reports over whether Addis Ababa has started filling the dam’s reservoir.

On Wednesday, Ethiopian state TV quoted the country’s Water Minister Seleshi Bekele as saying that the country has started to fill the GERD’s reservoir. Hours later, however, the minister denied that the filling process had started.

Ethiopian state TV apologised for what it described as a “misinterpretation” of statements made by the country’s water minister.

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