Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ruled out resorting to military action to settle the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) crisis, emphasizing that negotiations are the only way to solve the issue.
During remarks made to reporters on Tuesday, Sisi said that Egypt wishes Ethiopia success in generating electricity through the dam, but wants it to happen without harming Egypt’s water interests and its share in the Nile’s waters.
The negotiations surrounding the GERD occupy the minds of millions of Egyptians, for whom the Nile is a lifeline, and there are occasional calls by some Egyptians to solve the issue via military action.
Sisi responded to these views in his talk today and expressed his understanding regarding Egyptians’ concerns, saying: “Do make threats and idle talk. I respect every opinion, but don’t say we’ll do such and such a thing.”
“Egyptians are worried, and I say that your concerns are legitimate, and that I am with you,” Sisi said.
“We are negotiating, and this is a battle that will take time, because we will not sign anything that isn’t in our interest,” he added
“We always say to our brothers in Ethiopia and Sudan that we respect you, and are concerned about your right to life, as we are about ours. You have the right to generate electricity, and we wish you success with all love and good intent. But on the condition that this doesn’t affect the amount of water coming to us. We have talked about this during both bilateral and tripartite meetings,” Sisi said.
Sisi addressed Egyptians, saying: “The issue of water for us is that of our very life. I assure you that the issue is a just one, and our case is fair.”
Sisi continued: “The fairness of our demands for this water is proven by the Pyramid of Giza. This water has been flowing to us for thousands of years, and our civilization has been built upon it.”
Egypt has participated in multiple rounds of negotiations over the GERD with Ethiopia for about nine years, all without reaching a final agreement. Egypt blames Ethiopia for the failure of the negotiations.
Egypt, which relies considerably on fresh water from the Nile, has voiced fears that the GERD would negatively impact the country’s water supply, especially in light of overpopulation fears, and has insisted that measures be put in place to protect downstream countries in case of drought during the dam’s filling process.
Ethiopia, on the other hand, has stressed the importance of the project to bolstering its economy, where more than half of the population currently lives without access to electricity.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm