There is no alternative to cooperation between Nile Basin countries, interim Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmhy said on Thursday according to state-run MENA news agency.
Fahmy said Cairo respects the aspirations for development of the countries of the Nile Basin and their people, including the Ethiopian people.
Tensions had run high between Egypt and Ethiopia earlier this year over Ethiopia’s construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
“I think the Ethiopian side is aware of the extreme importance Egypt attaches to the issue of water security as it completely relies on Nile River water and that we are seeking to increase Egypt’s water resources, not just maintain the annual share…”
Every party wants more than what they have whether that is water, energy or economic development, he said. “There is no room to meet these aspirations without joint action and cooperation,” he said.
Fahmy added that the Nile River should be reason for cooperation and integration, rather than conflict and dispute.
Fahmy addressed the importance of not dealing with the water issue as a “zero-sum game” where one party wins at the expense of another party’s loss, especially regarding relations with Ethiopia.
He reiterated that Egypt does not oppose Ethiopia making use of its natural resources for development, provided it does not harm Egypt’s “water interests and rights.” He stressed that there is continuous contact with the Ethiopian side.
Fahmy had discussed water security with his Ethiopian counterpart Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus when they met last month in New York on the sidelines of the 68th UN General Assembly.
On Wednesday, Egypt’s Supreme Committee for Nile Water discussed the most recent developments in the Nile water issue and relations with Nile Basin countries in a meeting headed by Interim Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi. The meeting comes a few days ahead of a scheduled meeting in Khartoum, Sudan next Monday between the water resources ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, where they will discuss the findings of an international tripartite report released in June on the effects of the Ethiopian dam.
Egypt fears that the Ethiopian dam will affect its lion’s share of the Nile water. Agreements signed in 1929 and 1959 guaranteed Egypt 55.5bn cubic metres of the estimated total of 84bn cubic metres of Nile water produced each year.
Fahmy also said on Thursday that the strategy Egypt currently follows with Nile Basin countries represents, among other things, an aspect of Egypt’s new orientation towards the continent. Fahmy had said in Burundi earlier this month that Egypt is re-positioning Egypt in its “rightful place as a country of Arab identity and African roots.”
Fahmy was part of a ministerial delegation that was set to visit three Nile Basin countries but only managed to reach Uganda and Burundi, choosing not to visit Congo in response to Congolese talks over the country’s east, where a militant group of rebels is involved in an armed conflict with the government.
Fahmy said he plans to embark on a tour of African countries once every two months for the next six months, saying, “We must prove to ourselves and others that we are serious in our commitment towards Africa.”