Egypt eyes situation in Afghanistan, eager to find a resolution with Turkey: FM Shoukry to Bloomberg TV

MENA , Ahram Online , Wednesday 8 Sep 2021

Shoukry revealed that the new existing situation in Afghanistan would be on the top of issues to be discussed by the Arab foreign ministers' meeting in Cairo on Thursday


Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry stressed on Wednesday that the new developments in Afghanistan would certainly have big repercussions on the entire region, saying conflicts over the past years have depleted the region.

"A transformation with such nature and magnitude will undoubtedly have big repercussions on the entire region," Shoukry said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.

"We will wait and see how the new government in Taliban will operate and how it intends to sustain the commitments it made before," he said.

Asked whether he sees the US withdrawal from Afghanistan as a disengagement from the region, Shoukry stated that the US, as a superpower that has many interests and very deep relationships in the Middle East “cannot disengage from the region”.

Egypt’s top diplomat indicated that the US would continue relying on its traditional relationships and partnerships, including Egypt, to maintain its interests and provide the security and stability the region needs.

He also revealed that the new existing situation in Afghanistan would be on the top of issues to be discussed by the Arab foreign ministers' meeting in Cairo on Thursday.

"The region is now undergoing a very turbulent and volatile situation that is not contributing to achieving security and stability," the Egyptian foreign minister said citing ongoing conflicts in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Libya.

It is of the best interest of the countries of the region to expand communication and understandings to help achieve security and stability in the region, he Shoukry noted.

Asked about restoring diplomatic relations with Turkey, Shoukry said in the interview that Egypt was seeking ways to restore ties with Turkey.

Egypt is “eager to find a resolution” and a formula for restoring normal relations with Ankara, but more work needs to be done, he stated.

"When Egypt is 'satisfied' that outstanding issues have been resolved, the door will be open for further progress," Shoukry said.

Shoukry's statements came few hours after the conclusion of the second round of exploratory talks between the officials of the Egyptian and Turkish foreign ministries held in Ankara.

According to a joint statement issued earlier on Wednesday, both countries agreed to continue engaging in exploratory talks between them.

GERD’s decade-long dispute

On tension with Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Shoukry stated Egypt “has no interest in armed conflict with Ethiopia” over the controversial almost-complete Nile dam.

During the interview, he affirmed that Egypt was dedicated to negotiations and keen to avoid any military conflict but “all options are always open”.

"For ten years, Egypt was committed to the negotiating process [of GERD] to reach a satisfactory solution to all sides," he said.

"We have been committed over the past ten years to reach peaceful solution to the issue in accordance with international law, and we will continue adopting such an approach till the political will of Ethiopia to sign a deal is demonstrated," he said.

Egypt and Sudan — the two downstream countries — have been negotiating for almost a decade now with Ethiopia to reach a legally binding deal on the GERD, the construction of which started on the Blue Nile in 2011.

In early July, the UN Security Council held a session on the GERD, which was held at the request of Egypt and Sudan, in an attempt to settle the dispute over the Ethiopian dam.

The last round of talks concerning the $4.8 billion Ethiopian hydropower project — which was sponsored by the African Union (AU) and aimed to revive the already stalled negotiations since January — was held in the AU’s chair country — the DR Congo — in April, but failed to stir the stagnant water, with both Egypt and Sudan blaming Ethiopia’s “intransigence.”

Egypt and Sudan have been pushing for signing a comprehensive and legally binding agreement with Ethiopia over the GERD, while Addis Ababa refuses and says it seeks mere guidelines that can be modified at any time at its discretion.

Egypt fears that the unilateral filling and operation of the massive hydropower project will significantly diminish its water supply.

Egypt, which is considered one of the most water-scarce countries in the world, receives around 60 bcm annually, mainly from the Nile. However, its needs stand at around 114 bcm, placing the 102-million-citizen country well below the international threshold for water scarcity, at 560 cubic metres per person annually.

While Sudan says without agreement the GERD will put the operation of its Roseires dam and the lives of millions Sudanese at "a very high risk".

Its Roseires Dam is located only 15km away from the GERD and has a reservoir that is 12 times smaller than the storage capacity of the GERD's 74 billion cubic metre (bcm) reservoir.

Sudan believes the GERD will completely change the flow regime of the Blue Nile by flattening its hydrograph, and with its gigantic size it "poses substantial threats to Sudan if not properly designed, constructed, filled and operated”.

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