Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said on Sunday that Egypt has a genuine political intention to reach an agreement on the Ethiopian dam (GERD) at the earliest opportunity and before the flood season.
El-Sisi’s remarks came in a message handed by Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry to Congolese President and Chair of the African Union this year Félix Antoine Tshisekedi, a statement by the Egyptian foreign ministry read.
The Egyptian, Ethiopian, and Sudanese foreign and irrigation ministers are currently holding meetings in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa to resume talks on the GERD dispute under the auspices of the African Union.
Egypt and Sudan have warned of serious implications to their people and water interests if the second phase of filling the GERD is implemented without an agreement next July.
Ethiopia, however, reiterated its plans to complete the filling in that date whether or not an agreement is reached.
In his message, El-Sisi affirmed Egypt’s support to the efforts made by the Congolese president to help reach an agreement on the GERD.
El-Sisi said Egypt hopes that the current African Union-sponsored meetings succeed in launching an effective path for negotiations with the participation of international partners.
This effective path of negotiations should enable the three concerned countries to find solutions to the disputed technical and legal issues, with the aim of formulating a comprehensive agreement on the filling and operation of the dam, El-Sisi said in the message.
Egypt has welcomed and endorsed a Sudanese proposal in February to involve international partners as mediators in the talks. This includes a quartet of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and the African Union. Ethiopia rejected the proposal, saying it is ready to talk only under the auspices of the African Union.
El-Sisi’s message hailed the Congolese efforts aiming to reach a balanced, legally binding agreement on the dam that would secure the interests of the three countries and enhance integrity and cooperation among them.
Sisi’s remarks come only a week after he took a hard line on the GERD dispute, warning that a compromise in Egypt’s water share was a “red line.” He pledged action if the country’s share of water from the Nile is jeopardised.
“No one can take a drop of water from Egypt,” El-Sisi said, warning of “inconceivable instability in the region that no one could imagine” if that is to happen.
Taking part in the Kinshasa talks, scheduled for 4-5 April, FM Shoukry affirmed that Egypt has maintained a genuine political will over the past 10 years to reach an agreement on the GERD.
He said this agreement should achieve Ethiopian developmental goals and, at the same time, protect the interests of Egypt and Sudan.
Shoukry “stressed the necessity that the Kinshasa meetings lead to launching a new round of negotiations that are characterised with efficiency and seriousness,” the foreign ministry said.
The FM also affirmed the need for international partners to attend the desired round of talks to guarantee their success.
These negotiations are considered the last chance that has to be exploited by the three countries in order to reach an agreement during the coming months and before the next flood season, Shoukry said.
Shoukry affirmed Egypt’s keenness to resolve the controversial issues that have obstructed previous rounds of negotiations.
Egypt’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Abdel-Ati also attended the talks and the meeting with the Congolese president.
Shoukry and Abdel-Ati reviewed with President Tshisekedi Egypt’s efforts over the last decade to reach an agreement on the GERD.
Shoukry affirmed that Egypt has consistently introduced solutions and proposals on the issue in a way that addresses Ethiopian concerns.
These solutions and proposals were meant to guarantee the achievement of Ethiopian developmental goals and also protect the interests of the downstream countries of Egypt and Sudan, Shoukry added.
The success of the current efforts to settle the GERD issue and avoid the aggravation of the situation in a region already suffering from turmoil and instability, however, requires a political will from all parties to reach a just agreement, Shoukry said.
Tshisekedi on Sunday said the goal of the Kinshasa talks is to revive the negotiation process among the three countries on the GERD, Al-Arabiya reported.
He affirmed the necessity to reach solutions to the issue within the framework of the African Union.
Tshisekedi also called for taking into account the humanitarian dimension of the GERD issue and working to achieve the interests of the three countries’ peoples.