CAIRO – 16 January 2018: Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is expected to arrive in Cairo on Wednesday accompanied by a high-profile delegation to attend the sixth meeting of the joint Egyptian-Ethiopian Higher Committee. The last meeting was held three years ago and tackled several fields, including education, health, agriculture and fisheries.
The Ethiopian premier's three-day visit comes in the framework of the joint Egyptian-Ethiopian committee which was postponed several times since last December.
Desalegn is expected to meet with President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and deliver a speech before the House of Representatives. The Ethiopian delegation will include Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu and Ethiopian Ambassador to Cairo Taye Atske-Selassie.
Preparatory meetings of the Egyptian-Ethiopian committee started on Tuesday at a high-profile in the premises of the Foreign Ministry, said Assistant Foreign Minister for African Affairs Ambassador Mohamed Iddris said in a press release.
Ambassador Iddris pointed out that the Committee is expected to discuss means to enhance bilateral relations in the economic, social, and technical fields, in addition to political consultations on the regional and international developments.
He noted that the session will also witness the signing of a number of memorandums of understanding for joint cooperation, and will be attended by representatives from both sides’ Ministries of Trade and Industry, Investment, water resources and irrigation, agriculture, mining, electricity, health, tourism, education and culture.
The Joint Committee is scheduled to continue its work at the ministerial level on January 17th in preparation for the presidential level to convene during the upcoming visit of the Ethiopian Prime Minister to Cairo.
Arrangements before the meeting
According to sources, there are ongoing talks between the Egyptian and Ethiopian sides to find a solution to the dispute over GERD's technical studies before the upcoming visit of the Ethiopian Prime Minister to Cairo.
The sources pointed out that the joint committee's next meeting in Cairo will focus on cooperation in regional, continental and international issues, in addition to signing a number of agreements in the field of industry and minerals.
The meeting's agenda
The sources said that a series of bilateral meetings between the concerned ministers in the GERD issue from both countries will be held on Wednesday at the headquarters of Egyptian Cabinet. The ministers will put the joint committee meeting's agenda and arrange cooperation procedures. Afterwards, the Ethiopian Prime Minister will meet a number of Egyptian ministers before holding the bilateral summit in presence with President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi on Thursday.
Tripartite National Committee on TNCRD
On January 8, Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry revealed that Egypt has not received any official responses from Sudan or Ethiopia to its suggestion regarding the World Bank mediation in the tripartite technical negotiations of the Renaissance Dam impacts.
In Last December, Shoukry headed to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa with new suggestions regarding the Dam to break the tensions between the three countries; Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.
Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – Reuters
On November 12, the last meeting of the Tripartite National Committee on the Renaissance Dam (TNCRD), which was hosted in Cairo, concluded without reaching an agreement regarding the guidelines suggested by a study on the dam’s potential effects on the Nile Basin states, according to Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Abdel Ati.
Abdel Ati issued a statement shortly after the meeting explaining that despite Egypt’s agreement with the study’s guidelines, the other two parties of the TNCRD did not express consensus and called for amendments.
A report based on the study presents guidelines by which Ethiopia can fill its reservoir without harming the water flow into Egypt and Sudan. The $4 billion dam is being constructed on the Blue Nile with a capacity of 74 billion cubic meters and is expected to generate up to 6,000 megawatts of power.
Since May 2011, Cairo has voiced its concern over how the dam can reduce the country’s annual share of more than 56 billion cubic meters of Nile water. Egypt’s average water per-capita is expected to drop from 663 cubic meters per year to 582 cubic meters by 2025, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS). However, Addis Ababa claimed that the dam is necessary for Ethiopia’s development and will not harm downstream countries.
Alleged Egyptian- Ethiopian military escalation
Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi stressed that Egypt neither interferes nor conspires against any other country. Sisi's statements came in a speech given during the inauguration of projects nationwide on Monday, amid tensions between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.
In a message directed to Sudan and Ethiopia, President Sisi stated that Egypt’s developed military ability does not contradict with such the policy of peace, but it comes under defending national security. “Egypt has no time to waste on wars and conflicts.”
Egyptian Rafale fighter aircraft by Dassault Aviation - File photo
The Red Sea and its bordering states are facing numerous challenges that they have never faced before, such as the dominion of the Iran-backed Houthi militias at the Yemeni side of Bab-el-Mendeb Strait, the Turkish military presence after Ankara took administrative control of the Sudanese island of Suakin on the Red Sea coasts of east Sudan, and the Israeli presence on its coasts through the Israeli port of Eilat in south Israel.
Countries of the Horn of Africa are witnessing numerous forms of foreign military presence; China opened a military base in Djibouti in 2017, and so did Turkey who opened a base in Somalia in the same year. This military presence represents a security challenge for the region’s states, not to mention piracy operations which threaten marine traffic in the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.
Halaib and Shalateen dispute
Egypt’s relations with Sudan were recently strained over the disputed border area of Halaib and Shalateen; on December 23, 2017, Sudan filed a complaint to the United Nations Secretariat, protesting a maritime border demarcation deal between Egypt and Saudi Arabia as the deal denotes the territory as Egyptian on the maps.
Sudan's President Bashir welcomes Egypt's President Sisi in Khartoum- Reuters
Halaib and Shalateen, or the Halaib Triangle, is an area of land measuring 20,580 square kilometers, located at the Egyptian-Sudanese border on the Red Sea coast. It is part of the Red Sea governorate and consists of three major towns – Halaib (which became a city in February 2014), Abu Ramad and Shalateen.
FILE – Suakin Island
The area belongs to Egypt politically and administratively, but has been one of the major sticking points in Egyptian-Sudanese relations since the demarcation of borders between the two countries were carried out during the British occupation of Egypt in 1899, at a time when Sudan was part of the Egyptian Kingdom.
The issue reemerged after Halaib and Shalateen declared electoral constituency in both Sudan and Egypt in 2014.