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Sisi asks for Washington’s help to reach Renaissance Dam agreement

December 15, 2022 at 1:17 pm

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi (C) meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (3rd L) during the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC, United States on December 15, 2022. [Egyptian Presidency – Anadolu Agency]

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has asked the US to help pressure Ethiopia to reach an agreement with Egypt regarding the Renaissance Dam, while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed the importance of reaching a diplomatic solution between all parties.

On the sidelines of his visit to Washington to attend the US-Africa summit, Al-Sisi raised the Renaissance Dam file with Blinken and noted: “This is a very vital and existential matter to us.”

He added: “Reaching a legally binding agreement can achieve something good in accordance with international standards and norms. We are not asking for anything other than that. We need your support on this matter.”

The US State Department shared in a statement after the meeting that Blinken: “Stressed the importance of reaching a diplomatic settlement that protects the interests of all parties.”

It added that the US Secretary raised with Al-Sisi the issue of respect for human rights in Egypt, emphasising: “Bilateral relations become stronger with tangible progress in this field.”

Blinken reiterated his country’s commitment to the strategic partnership between the US and Egypt and praised Egypt’s successful hosting of the COP 27 climate conference, according to the US State Department.

The dam on the Nile River – which costs $4.2 billion and will be the largest in Africa – is a source of tension between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan.

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Egypt, which relies on the river for 97 per cent of its irrigation and drinking water, fears the dam will reduce its already scarce water supplies.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had promised to continue talks on the dam but proceeded with the plan to fill and operate the first turbines.

Since the project was launched in 2011, the Renaissance Dam has sparked a diplomatic dispute between Sudan and Egypt, which depend on the Nile for their water resources.

The administration of former US President Donald Trump, a close ally of the Egyptian army commander who became president of the country, sought to mediate and reach a solution and cut off aid to Ethiopia after accusing Addis Ababa of not dealing with the file in good faith.

As for the administration of President Joe Biden, it follows an approach that is more focused on diplomacy and does not link aid to the issue.

However, the Biden administration’s relations with Ethiopia have been strained over concerns about human rights violations in the war against militants in the Tigray region, which ended after a peace deal was concluded last month.

Upon assuming office, Biden distanced himself from Al-Sisi due to concerns about Cairo’s human rights record, but he welcomed the role played by his Egyptian counterpart in brokering a ceasefire last year in the Gaza Strip and Egypt’s hosting of the United Nations Climate Summit last month.

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