CAIRO (AA) – Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on Thursday expressed hope that his country, Ethiopia and Sudan would be able to select a consultation firm to conduct studies on a multibillion-dollar hydroelectric dam now being built in Ethiopia.
During a meeting in Cairo with water ministers from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, al-Sisi said that he also hoped an agreement on the dam would serve as a springboard for future cooperation among the three states, the Egyptian presidency said.
It added in a statement that the president had underlined Egypt’s keenness for the success of a tripartite committee on the dam – one that includes the water ministers of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan – as well as the three countries’ task of selecting a consultation firm to conduct studies on the dam’s impact on Egypt and Sudan.
Al-Sisi said cooperation between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia should not be restricted to water, but should also focus on other areas, such as the economy, trade, investment and culture.
He voiced hope that this cooperation would benefit the estimated 200 million combined population of the three countries, according to the statement.
It said al-Sisi had told the water ministers that Egypt had plans to push its relations forward with both Sudan and Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam has been a sore point in relations between Egypt and Ethiopia for several months now, as Egypt fears that the dam will deprive it of much-needed Nile water.
Ethiopia, on the other hand, was keen to stress its right to build the dam, saying the project was important for its national development.
Relations between the two states started to improve remarkably following the assumption of power by al-Sisi – Egypt’s defense minister who led the army to oust elected president Mohamed Morsi in July of last year.
Before becoming president, al-Sisi had said he was ready to go to Addis Ababa to seek solutions to the stalemate between his country and Ethiopia over the dam.
Addis Ababa welcomed al-Sisi’s remarks, expressing its readiness to engage in serious talks with Egypt over the dam project.
During Thursday’s meeting with the Egyptian president, Ethiopian Water Minister Alemayehu Tegenu said there was no alternative to cooperation among the countries of the Nile Basin, stressing that they could achieve many good things together, the Egyptian presidency said in its statement.
The Ethiopian water minister referred to major Egyptian in investments in his country, warning against attempts by some quarters to sow tension between Egypt and Ethiopia.
It was the first time for the Egyptian President to meet the water ministers of Ethiopia and Sudan, a diplomatic source had told Anadolu Agency earlier.
He said talks at the meeting had focused on criteria for selecting the consultation firm that will conduct studies on the effects of Ethiopia’s dam on Sudan and Egypt.
Following their meeting with al-Sisi, the three water ministers headed to Egypt’s cabinet building in central Cairo where they met with Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab, who discussed means of expanding cooperation between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.
The Egyptian premier told the Ethiopian and Egyptian water ministers that Egypt sought to increase investment projects in both countries, according to an Egyptian Irrigation Ministry source.