Austrian FM stresses support to Egypt's right to its share of Nile River waters

Ahram Online , MENA , Ahram Online , MENA , Sunday 3 Jul 2022

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg affirmed to his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry his country's support to Egypt's right to its share of the Nile River waters as the pair exchanged views on the Grand thiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) dispute in a meeting in Cairo on Sunday.

Shoukry
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg (L) and his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry during a joint press conference after a meeting in Cairo on Sunday 3 July 2022 (photo: Egyptian Foreign ministry)

 

“The flow of the Nile waters is not a concern of one country but rather all countries through which the river runs,” Schallenberg said adding that "the Nile River should not be controlled by one state."

Schallenberg made his statement during a joint press conference with Shoukry after a meeting in Cairo, where they discussed boosting bilateral ties as well as regional and international issues of common interest including GERD.

Shoukry said Egypt is keen on briefing Austria, as a member of the European Union (EU), on Egyptian stances regarding the GERD issue.

He expressed hopes that Austria will be able to convey the Egyptian view on the long-running issue to the EU.

Egypt and Sudan have been negotiating with Ethiopia for almost a decade now to reach a legally binding and comprehensive agreement on filling and operating GERD, which Addis Ababa started building on the Blue Nile in 2010.

Egypt, which relies mainly on the Nile for water, fears that a unilateral operation of GERD and filling its 74 billion cubic metre reservoir will negatively impact its water supply, while Sudan is concerned that GERD will harm the flow regulation to its own dams and their safety.

Ethiopia, which had unilaterally completed the first and second filling of the dam, announced that the first turbine of GERD has begun generating power in February.

Ethiopia has announced plans to implement the third phase of filling starting in August despite the absence of accord on regulations of filling and operation with Egypt and Sudan.

Negotiations among the three countries collapsed in April 2021 and since then, all attempts to revive them had failed.

Irregular migration

Talks also included issues of terrorism and irregular migration. Shoukry said that since 2016, Egypt has succeeded in preventing boats carrying illegal migrants from departing from its shore.

The country hosts more than 6 million migrants from Arab and African countries, who are treated as Egyptians and enjoy all services.

Shoukry said that Egypt has exerted great efforts in cooperation with the European Union to provide a suitable framework to limit illegal migrants from Egypt.

Since 2016, Egypt has stepped up efforts to deal with irregular migration, setting legislative framework to combat smuggling of migrants.

In 2016, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi launched the first national strategy to combat irregular migration in addition to Law 82 of 2016 penalising and criminalising all forms of migrants’ smuggling as well as combating activities of those involved in such acts.

The penalties of committing, attempting to commit, or being involved in smuggling migrants include strict imprisonment and a fine ranging from EGP 200,000 to EGP 500,000.

In 2022, the country toughened the law, forcing those accused of committing crimes of smuggling or aiding in smuggling of migrants to pay a fine equivalent to the amount they profited from the operation.

Russian-Ukrainian crisis

The Egyptian and Austrian foreign ministers discussed the consequences of the Russian-Ukrainian war and the global food crisis.

Answering a question during the presser regarding the impact of the global grain crisis in Egypt and North Africa, Shoukry stated that the crisis has impacted the entire world not only Egypt.

He added that Egypt is the world’s largest importer of grains and was mainly depending on Russia and Ukraine. However, he said that the country obtains sufficient grain stocks and has contracted to import shipments from other countries.

Shoukry also highlighted that the global hike in grain prices adds burden to the state budget, expressing hopes of "cooperation, even partially, within the framework of UN efforts to secure Ukranian and Russian ships carrying wheat"  to the importing countries.

Shoukry stressed that the issue of food security should be addressed seriously, stating that Egypt is communicating with all parties to reslove the crisis and regain stability in Ukraine. 

The top Egyptian diplomat emphasised that the economic reform program has helped the country in dealing with consequences of the coronavirus pandemic and Russian-Ukrainian war.

Shoukry warned that if the war continues, additional risks would ensue noting that Egypt is working with partners to find solutions for the Russian-Ukrainian crisis and regain the world's security and stability.

COP27

Schallenberg stressed that climate change is a world issue, adding that Austria is looking forward to cooperating with Egypt regarding the UN climate change conference (COP27) that Egypt will host, on behalf of Africa.

Egypt is scheduled to host COP27 in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh in November with ambitions to build on the outcomes of COP26 in Glasgow and support global efforts in mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Egypt has also pledged to speak up for aspirations of African and developing countries to cope with climate change, including through securing required finances in this regard.

Earlier in June, during the Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development held in Cairo, Shoukry said that Egypt will coordinate with all African countries to set a clear map on global and regional levels to tackle climate change in addition to allocating financial resources.

Egypt will also focus on the green recovery agenda and support Africa’s efforts to contain the impacts of the ongoing challenges, Shoukry said.

He urged the international community to meet its obligations for Africa, the least contributor to the climate crisis with only three percent of global carbon emissions.

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