FILE – President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi
CAIRO – 9 January 2018: The visit of President of Eritrea Isaias Afwerki begins on Tuesday and sheds the light on mutual efforts by Egypt and Eritrea to strengthen their close ties.
During his visit, Afwerki is scheduled to discuss ways to further improve the bilateral relations in different fields based on the historic distinct relations between the two countries, along with the recent regional developments in the Nile Basin countries and African horn region.
This visit comes amid the current tense relations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan regarding the Renaissance Dam negotiations and the already odd relation between Eritrea and Ethiopia. The strained relations between Sudan and Egypt come as a result of Sudan’s claims that Egypt proposed to exclude Sudan from the dam talks; also, the dispute over the sovereignty of the Halayeb triangle is another contributing factor to the strained relations between the two countries.
However, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on January 8 stressed that Egypt did not ask Ethiopia to exclude Sudan from the negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
After Eritrea had gained its independence from Ethiopia, following a long civil war on borders, on May 24, 1991, Egypt was among the top countries enhancing political, economic and diplomatic relations with Eritrea.
In this regard, Cairo and Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, signed a Friendship and Cooperation Agreement on March 31, 2009, as well as a Protocol of Cooperation between the National Council for Youth in Egypt and National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS) on December 14, 2009.
Since the June 30 revolution, which Eritrea has supported at the African Union level, President Afwerki visited Egypt several times; the most recent two visits were in 2014 and 2016 to further enhance the deep relations between the two countries.
Delegations from Egypt and Eritrea have met several times over the last few years to intensify the coordination between them in various sectors, including agriculture, fisheries, infrastructure, trade, culture, education and health.
The Egyptian delegation of the Agriculture Ministry visited Asmara in 2016 to meet with Eritrean Agriculture Ministry’s general director and head of poultry and research departments to discuss means of fostering bilateral relations in the agricultural field.
During the meeting, the Egyptian delegation discussed establishing a joint model farm in Eritrea and signing a memorandum of understanding to bolster relations in research, training, developing crops and poultry fields.
Moreover, in April 2017, an Egyptian delegation from the national company for fisheries and aquaculture headed to Eritrea. The delegation was welcomed by Afwerki and his economic adviser to discuss ways to put into effect the protocol on the cooperation in the field of fisheries, signed between the two states in Cairo in March 2017.
Egypt and Eritrea also seek to activate the joint committee aiming to boost bilateral cooperation in all fields. It is also worth mentioning that the Egyptian Agency of Partnership for Development (EAPD) provides Eritrea with continuous technical assistance.
Moreover, the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education has provided many scholarships to Eritrean students.
Regarding the medical field, Egyptian Fund for Technical Assistance sent in 2010 medical aid to Eritrea and signed a memorandum of understanding in the field of medical cooperation and medical products in 2010.
Egypt’s eye on Africa
President Sisi visited several African countries since taking office in June 2014; participating in summits and conducting bilateral talks with the majority of African leaders.
In June 2014, Sisi participated in the African Union Summit in the Equatorial Guinea as his first presidential visit within the continent, which was considered then a restoration of the African-Egyptian relations after years of neglect during Mubarak’s era.
Several short visits during 2015 followed the African Union Summit participation, including visits to Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda per Yuri Museveni invitation in December 2016.
The Egyptian president encourages Egyptian investments in Africa in fields he deemed as "high priority" such as construction, infrastructure, oil and gas mining, agriculture, telecommunications and information technology.
President Sisi enhanced the Egyptian-African ties by paying visits to a number of African countries, organizing "Africa 2017" forum in Sharm El-Sheikh and hosting African youths during the World Youth Forum.
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