Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry with his DR Congo’s counterpart Christophe Lutundula during the joint press conference which was held in Cairo in Thursday 16 September, 2021. Photo courtesy of Egyptian Foreign ministry Twitter account
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Thursday that Egypt has received a vision and plan from the DR Congo, the current chair of the African Union (AU), on the resumption of the AU-sponsored talks regarding the GERD during the coming period.
Shoukry’s remarks were made in a press conference held in Cairo with Christophe Lutundula, the DR Congo’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister.
The presser comes a day after the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) issued a presidential statement encouraging the three countries to continue the AU-sponsored negotiations regarding the mega-dam.
Lutundula embarked on an official visit to Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt this week to discuss arrangements regarding the resumption of the GERD talks.
Shoukry affirmed Egypt’s “full readiness and flexibility” to study the proposals introduced based on the Congolese plan and provide feedback to the DR Congo’s presidency about this document that “will definitely contribute positively to launching the negotiations process again.”
He noted that a timeframe for the negotiations should be determined after they are launched.
During the presser, Shoukry affirmed Egypt’s willingness to receive invitations to resume the AU-sponsored GERD talks with Sudan and Ethiopia “at the earliest opportunity,” as per the UNSC’s statement.
The GERD talks should be supported by the “active participation” of the international community to back the chair of the African Union and to reach a legally binding solution on the filling and operation of the dam.
Shoukry hailed the UNSC’s statement, saying that it has “provided important and needed international support that enables the AU’s chair to fulfill their duties as a mediator in the GERD negotiations.”
The Egyptian FM said this support should also help “apply the principle of ‘African Solutions to African Problems’ and enhance the role of the AU’s chair by giving them the chance to resort to international observers agreed upon by the three states.”
Shoukry also said that he hopes the “African chairmanship will make a suitable decision that meets the aspirations of not only the three countries, but also the international community, now represented in the security council.”
The minister highlighted the importance of time in the GERD negotiations as indicated by the UNSC’s statement, which called for resuming the talks and reaching a binding agreement within a reasonable time frame.
“In the event the political will is present, we will reach an agreement,” Shoukry added, affirming that all the technical issues of the GERD file have been discussed in previous sessions.
Lutundula said he and Shoukry held “positive” discussions, expressing hope that a solution will be reached to the decade long dispute.
The Congolese FM said the three countries are in agreement on the need to resolve African differences within an African framework through African solutions.
In a meeting on Wednesday, Lutundula also handed Sudanese Foreign Minister Mariam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi a similar document on the GERD prepared by a team of joint experts from the Congolese presidency and the AU Commission, Sudan’s news agency (SUNA) reported.
The document contains a brief of the points of agreement and disagreement among Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia regarding the dam in order for the experts to study them and work on bringing the three countries’ views closer in a bid to help them reach a satisfying deal.
Egypt and Sudan welcomed on Wednesday the UNSC’s statement urging the three countries to continue the AU-sponsored talks on the GERD.
The statement came two months after the UNSC held a session on the GERD at the request of the two downstream countries.
Ethiopia, however, said it will not recognise any claim that may be raised on the basis of this statement, claiming that the GERD issue is outside of the council’s mandate.
The three countries have shown willingness to continue the GERD negotiations that have been stalled since April.
Previous rounds of the AU-sponsored talks have collapsed before they could reach an agreement between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, with the two downstream countries blaming the talks’ failure on Ethiopia’s intransigence.
Given the failed round in April in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa, the two downstream countries proposed the formation of a quartet mediation committee led by the AU that includes the European Union, the United States, and the United Nations.
Ethiopia rejected the proposal, however, accusing both countries of obstructing the AU-sponsored talks.