President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi told Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project must be handled with “utmost transparency and understanding of the interests of all parties.”
In a meeting Monday with Adhanom, Al-Sisi said the only “entrance to reach the required level of understanding is the availability of the political will to cooperate”, presidential spokesman Ihab Badawi told state television.
Al-Sisi asserted that Egypt understands Ethiopia’s development needs but added that this must go hand-in-hand with Ethiopian understanding of Egypt’s water needs, and that Egypt has no alternatives to the Nile for its growing water needs.
Adhanom asserted that his country does not aim to impact Egypt’s share of Nile water, with the dam’s goal being electricity generation rather than for water consumption. Adhanom extended an invitation to Al-Sisi to visit Ethiopia, accepted by Al-Sisi.
Egypt and Ethiopia have been locked in a diplomatic dispute which reached a peak in 2013, relating to the construction of the GERD, which Egypt fears will have a detrimental effect on its share of Nile water. Egypt utilises more Nile water than any other country, using 55 billion cubic metres annually, as stipulated in agreements signed in the absence of Ethiopia. Talks stalled recently due to disagreements over the formation of a panel to implement recommendations made by an international panel of experts.
In 2013, while serving as Minister of Defence, Al-Sisi rejected the idea of using military force to resolve water issues. At the time, he said that Egypt would look for a peaceful resolution to differences while moving forward.
Al-Sisi said during talks with Adhanom, that constructive dialogue is the best way to achieve mutual understanding and stressed the depth of ties between the two countries. He described the Nile River as “the artery that connects the people of Ethiopia and Egypt”.
“This is why the leaders and officials of the two countries should make every effort to preserve this relationship, develop it and strengthen it in order to achieve mutual benefits for the two people,” Al-Sisi said. He added that no problem or challenge that cannot be solved if there is a “real political will to cooperate.”
The meeting was attended by Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy, who had met with Adhanom on Sunday and emphasised the “importance that the river Nile remains a source of cooperation between Nile Basin countries.”
Adhanom was in Egypt to attend the inauguration ceremony of Al-Sisi, who was sworn in on Sunday.