PM denies Egyptian-US ties are 'lukewarm,' comments on GERD and listing army companies on EGX

Amr Kandil , Sunday 16 Jan 2022

Egypt's Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly denied that the relations between Egypt and Joe Biden's administration are "lukewarm," saying the Egyptian-US strategic partnership has been maintained over the past decades.

File photo: Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly. Cabinet

Madbouly made the remarks in an interview with BBC News Arabic's Bela Hodoud (“No Limits”) program broadcast on Sunday, where he also spoke about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) crisis with Ethiopia along with other topics.

The premier also explained plans to list the companies belonging to the government and the Armed Forces on the Egyptian Exchange (EGX) and commented on the situation of human rights and freedom of expression in Egypt.

The interview was conducted on the sidelines of the fourth edition of the World Youth Forum that ran from 10 to 13 January in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh.

Egyptian-US relations

Egypt and the US have shared a strategic partnership since mid-1970s and the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in Washington, Madbouly said.

The partnership linking the two countries have continued through consecutive US and Egyptian administrations in light of the two countries' keenness to continue and enhance those ties, Madbouly added.

"Relations between any two states pass through phases of convergence and apathy based on the visions of some administrations," Madbouly said.

However, he denied that the US and Egypt are in a current period of "lukewarm" relations.

Madbouly said, although it is commonly reported that Egypt shared better relations with the former US administration of President Donald Trump, the two countries held their Strategic Dialogue for the first time [since 2015] last November during Biden's tenure.

The US-Egypt Strategic Dialogue "had not been held even during the tenure of the former administration," the premier said.

Listing of government, army companies

Madbouly highlighted Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's earlier remarks regarding plans to list the companies belonging to the Egyptian Armed Forces or the government on the stock exchange and enabling partnerships with the private sector in all national projects.

Egypt seeks to list many public and Armed Forces' companies on the Egyptian stock exchange (EGX) during the coming year, Madbouly said, affirming that Egypt already started to list public sector and government companies on EGX.

Late in 2020, Egypt's Planning Minister Hala El-Saeed revealed national plans to offer the National Company for Producing and Bottling Water (Safi) and Wataniya Petroleum for private sector investment.

Madbouly said some of the public sector and Armed Forces’ companies are being restructured so that they become ready for listing.

The Armed Forces’ institutions in Egypt account for less than one percent of the Egyptian economy, Madbouly said, stressing that the economy will always depend on the private sector.

These companies have contributed to sectors that saw weak or no presence of the private sector, Madbouly said, adding that infrastructure projects accounted for over 50 percent of the national spending over the past period.

"We were importing heavily and paying with hard currency in some industries because the private sector only covered 10-20 percent of these sectors," the premier said.

Human rights, freedom of speech

Madbouly reiterated that Egypt has adopted a comprehensive concept of human rights that include social, economic, environmental and political dimensions.

He added that standards of human rights in developed countries do not necessarily apply to that of developing states, noting that many organisations that criticise Egypt's human rights and freedom of expression situation depend in their analysis on "individual cases."

"The real problem is that most of these organisations work out their reports based on individual cases that cannot be generalised to describe the general situation in the Egyptian state," Madbouly said.

He asserted that the Egyptian media platforms have the space for different opinions, even those criticising the political leadership, saying that space for freedom of expression in Egypt is "far larger than that in many countries in the Middle East."

Madbouly revealed that the state is using media platforms that it owns or supervises to explain the "real situation" given the presence of "a multitude of anti-Egyptian state media platforms."

"We are trying as much as we can to make a balance… and explain the real situation… because there are a multitude of media platforms that are all directed against the Egyptian state," Madbouly said.

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Madbouly commented on the dispute between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia regarding the massive dam Ethiopia is constructing on the Blue Nile, saying Egypt has called for dialogue to resolve the crisis.

"Egypt has always affirmed that we are not against any development in any of the Nile Basin countries and informed the Ethiopian side that we are keen to partake in establishing this dam," Madbouly said.

He affirmed that these projects, however, should not cause any harm to Egypt's rights in Nile water.

"We have always called that Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia reach a consensus on a legal, binding agreement that regulates the development and the rights of all these countries in benefitting from the River Nile."

Madbouly affirmed that conflict and dispute over Nile are not in the benefit of any of the peoples of the three countries.

Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia have all expressed their readiness to resume the African Union-sponsored talks on GERD, which stalled in April last year over “Ethiopia’s intransigence,” according to the two downstream countries.

In September, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) issued a presidential statement encouraging the three countries to resume negotiations, under the auspices of the AU.

The statement urged the countries to “finalise expeditiously the text of [a] mutually acceptable and binding agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD.”

Egypt and Sudan have continued to demand that a legally-binding agreement is reached on GERD to guarantee their water interests and the right of their peoples to the Nile water and prevent any harms to Sudanese dams.

Despite warnings from Egypt and Sudan about any unilateral steps regarding GERD before said agreement is reached, Ethiopia implemented the second phase of filling the dam in July without the two countries’ consent.

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