Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed pledged on Sunday in a joint press conference with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in Cairo that Ethiopia will not do anything to harm Egypt’s share of Nile water.
During the press conference, President El-Sisi welcomed Ahmed and described the relationship between Egypt and Ethiopia as special.
El-Sisi and Ahmed held a closed meeting where they discussed issues around the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam, which is being built on the main tributary to Egypt’s River Nile, as well as bilateral cooperation and issues of mutual interest.
The Egyptian President said that he has been working over the past four years with Ethiopia to reach an agreement on the GERD issue that would not harm any party while ensuring development for both sides.
“We have come a long way in building confidence with Ethiopia,” El-Sisi said, stressing that the two countries are nearing a final agreement on the GERD.
El-Sisi said that the Nile is Egypt’s “sole lifeline,” while accentuating the importance of development for the Ethiopian people.
Egypt has repeatedly voiced concerns that the rate at which the GERD’s reservoirs are being filled could reduce its share of Nile water, which Ethiopia has dismissed, while stressing that it needs the $4 billion dam project for development.
Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan recently reached an agreement on the next steps to reconcile their differences on the Ethiopian Dam, following months of stalled negotiations between the three countries.
Addis Ababa hopes to be able to export electricity generated by the dam, which will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa.
El-Sisi also said that he discussed with Ahmed the increasing number of Egyptian private sector companies investing in Ethiopia, promising more incentives for mutual investment and the establishment of an Egyptian development zone in Ethiopia.
The Egyptian president also stressed the importance of the agreed upon joint investment fund between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to facilitate infrastructure development in the three countries. The fund will hold its next meeting in Cairo on 3-4 July.
El-Sisi and Ahmed also discussed regional issues, including Ethiopia’s relationship with South Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia, with both sides agreeing on the importance of regional peace.
“I want to stress that the relationship between the two countries is a strategic partnership; and that Egypt’s strategy is consolidating joint interests,” El-Sisi said, stressing that Egypt would not spare any effort in this regard.
“Egypt’s policy towards Ethiopia remains based on safeguarding Ethiopia’s interests, stability, and security,” the Egyptian President added.
Ahmed, who took office as Ethiopia’s prime minister in April, said that he is glad to visit Egypt, adding that he and El-Sisi had an in-depth discussion on the relationship between the two countries.
“I want to tell the Egyptian people: We fear God, we are neighbors, and we don’t have any intention to cause harm to the Egyptian people,” Ahmed said, explainig that Ethiopia’s commitment to development would not harm Egypt.
Ahmed also said that he wants to see the building of confidence between the two countries on the GERD issue.
“Politicians…media… they wanted to benefit from the conflicts; but my brother, El-Sisi and I, will not be pushed down this road,” he said, adding that the conflicts of the past 100 years should be forgotten.
“We want to help each other; not bear a grudge,” he said, adding that his visit, which comes during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, represents Ethiopia’s wish to achieve dedication and love between the two countries.
“We want our share of Nile Water, and that you also receive your share, and we will both work on increasing Egypt’s share of Nile water,” Ahmed said, while El-Sisi laughingly asked Ahmed “to swear by Allah” that Ethiopia would preserve Egypt’s share of Nile Water.
Ahmed called on the media to work on bringing Egypt and Ethiopia together to work on development; adding that a conflict would not benefit either party.
“You are the fourth estate, work on bringing people together to focus and work only on development,” he said.
Ahmed’s two-day visit to Egypt, his first as PM, comes one month after he received an invitation to visit the country by an Egyptian delegation visiting Addis Ababa, which was headed by Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and acting head of the Egyptian general intelligence Abbas Kamel.