Ethiopia is acting unilaterally and intransigently in the GERD dispute, Egypt's FM tells House

Amr Kandil , Tuesday 26 Jan 2021

Sameh Shoukry told parliament Cairo seeks a binding agreement in the GERD dispute; peaceful resolutions to regional conflicts; balanced relations with world powers; and joint efforts against terrorism

Sameh Shoukry

Ethiopia is acting unilaterally and intransigently in the GERD dispute, Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told parliament on Tuesday, adding that Egypt would not allow any harm to its water rights.

In a speech to the House on the accomplishments and goals of the country's foreign policy, Shoukry told MPs that Egypt insists on a binding legal agreement between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, as the way to resolve the years-long dispute.

He also explained to the House that Egypt's foreign policy aims at the resolution of all conflicts in the region through peaceful means.

The foreign minister stressed that Egypt rejects methods of conspiracy and interference in other nations’ domestic affairs.

Shoukry added that the country's foreign policy is based on cooperation, coordination, diversification and achieving balance.

The foreign ministry has been working to implement the state’s vision in defending the country's interests, preserving national security, facing terrorism and achieving sustainable development, Shoukry said.

The Palestinian cause remains a top priority for Egypt, Shoukry stressed.

Egyptian diplomacy and the GERD dispute

Egyptian diplomacy seeks to reach a just and balanced agreement in the GERD dispute that allows Ethiopia to achieve its developmental goals and, at the same time, protects Egyptian and Sudanese rights, the minister said.

Shoukry affirmed that Egypt views negotiations, including those under the African Union (AU) supervision, as a tool to reach a fair agreement that would preserve Egypt’s water rights.

Egypt managed to bring the GERD file to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Shoukry said, referring to an open session held on 30 June last year to discuss the political and technical implications of the GERD, as per an Egyptian request.

Shoukry said referring the issue to the UNSC came in light of the Egyptian diplomacy’s keenness to resort to international support.

He added that the Security Council held the session as it was aware of the issue’s serious implications on regional security and stability.

During the UNSC session, Egypt explained that Nile is a matter of life for the Egyptian people and that Cairo would not tolerate any harm to its water interests or resources, Shoukry said.

Multiple rounds of negotiations between the three countries to reach a binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam have ended in various deadlocks, as Addis Ababa remained non-commital to reaching such a deal.

Last year, Ethiopia completed the first filling of the GERD and plans to execute the second filling of the dam next July "under all circumstances."

Egypt and Sudan believe a binding agreement is necessary to protect their water rights and secure their interests.

In a speech to the House last week, Egypt’s Minister of Water Resources Mohamed Abdel-Ati blamed the failure of negotiations, under the supervision of the African Union, on Ethiopia’s intransigence.

Meanwhile, Sudanese Information Minister Faisal Saleh voiced on Saturday Sudan’s concerns over Ethiopia’s intention to embark on the second filling without a binding deal, saying “Sudan does not accept the imposition of a fait accompli."

Egyptian-US relations

The foreign minister told MPs that Egyptian-US relations are based on firm cooperation pillars.

"Egypt’s relations with the US are not limited to a certain political party in the US," Shoukry said.

He affirmed Egypt’s wish to enhance cooperation with the US in various fields, including confronting all forms of terrorism.

Shoukry explained to MPs that the US ranks third on the list of nations investing in Egypt at EGP 22 billion. He added that Egypt also comes on top of the list of African countries receiving US investments.

Trade exchange between the two countries has increased by 76 percent between 2016 and 2019, Shoukry stated, voicing Egypt's aspiration to foster stronger economic, commercial, and military ties with the US.

Relations with Russia

Shoukry praised productive relations with Russia, which are reflected in exchanged visits between the presidents of both countries as well as various ministerial visits.

The foreign minister described strong cooperation between Egypt and Russia in various fields, including collaboration to construct the country's first-ever nuclear power plant in El-Dabaa.

Shoukry also said negotiations between the two countries to establish the Egyptian-Russian industrial zone have reached an advanced stage.

Resolving the crisis in Libya

The Egyptian state has exerted intensive efforts to resolve the crisis in Libya based on the Cairo Declaration, Shoukry told the House.

In June, 2020, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi announced the Cairo Declaration to encourage warring parties in Libya to reach a ceasefire and adhere to participation in UN-sponsored talks to resolve the crisis.

Shoukry said the declaration was an explicit call on all parties to adhere to a political solution to the crisis and abandon military escalation.

"The Cairo declaration represented a turning point on the path of resolving the crisis," he said.

Cairo has intensified in recent months communication and meetings with all concerned regional and international parties to build on Egypt's efforts to resolve the crisis, Shoukry said.

He added that Egypt also talked to many parties to the conflict in Libya to encourage the path of negotiations as the way to encourage a comprehensive settlement in the country and put an end to destructive foreign intervention.

Fighting terrorism

Shoukry said Egypt is cooperating with countries around the world in the face of extremist thought and terrorism.

Egypt is also cooperating with the United Nations Security Council on efforts to uproot terrorism, drying up sources of terrorist funding, and eliminating the phenomenon of foreign fighters.

Shoukry said his ministry is also coordinating with international partners to provide them with updates about the terrorist-designated Muslim Brotherhood group, stressing that they have been placed on terror lists in some countries.

Ministers at the House

The prime minister and a number of ministers have already reviewed accomplishments in the government's Egypt Kicks Off programme before the House.

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel-Ati, Agriculture Minister El-Sayed El-Quseir, Manpower Minister Mohamed Saafan and Emigration Minister Nabila Makram have all delivered speeches and fielded questions from MPs in the parliament.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Hanafy El-Gebaly hailed the government’s program, affirming the need to continue cooperation between the government and the House.

Minister of Civil Aviation Mohamed Manar is also set to appear before the House today to discuss his ministry's accomplishments and future plans.

On Wednesday, Minister of Culture Inas Abdel-Dayem and Minister of Environment Yasmine Fouad are scheduled to deliver speeches on their ministry's accomplishments before the House.

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