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The Messenger: Egypt continues to court Ethiopia’s neighbors with visit by Eritreans to Cairo

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Monday, 27 March 2017

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Egypt continues to court Ethiopia’s neighbors with visit by Eritreans to Cairo

Eritrea's Foreign Minister has met with his counterpart in Cairo (Credit: Ministry of Information, Asmara)

A high-level delegation from Eritrea visited Egypt’s capital Cairo last week to discuss bilateral ties. The visit is in line with an Egyptian diplomatic drive in the Nile Basin and Horn of Africa.

The Eritrean delegation was headed by Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and Presidential Advisor Yemane Gebreab. They left Asmara for Cairo only a week after an Egyptian delegation had concluded their own working visit to Asmara.

According to Eritrea’s Ministry of Information, the bilateral talks focused on strengthening existing economic and trade relations between the two countries including in the areas of marine resources, agriculture, renewable energy, health, banking and financial services.

The two parties also reached an agreement to work in collaboration in preventing piracy. “The agreement encompasses cooperation and joint work to combat terrorism, piracy and human trafficking,” the Eritrean ministry reported on its website.

During their visit, the Eritrean delegation was received by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, met with business people, visited an Egyptian national fisheries and aquaculture project, attended the Cairo International Fair for Egyptian Products and visited a number of other enterprises.

Both foreign ministers attended a wrap-up session of the visit on Thursday, March 23rd, where they traded assurances of their mutual desire to strengthen bilateral ties, according to the information ministry.

Egyptian media confirmed the visit by the Eritrean officials while providing few details other than to say that the two sides discussed developments in the Horn of Africa, Somalia and the southern Red Sea regions.

Eritrea is a long-time rival of neighboring Ethiopia and the visit could irk officials in Addis Ababa. Egypt has expressed concerns previously about Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam project on the Blue Nile river, while Ethiopia has complained that Cairo has pressured international donors and lenders to withhold funding for the project.

A previous statement by Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said that the dam project “would cause appreciable harm, including material environmental and socioeconomic harm to Egypt.” The Egyptians cited a lack of environmental and hydrological impact assessment studies.

Egypt wants assurances that the dam will not significantly cut the flow of water to its rapidly growing population. Ethiopia and Egypt plus Sudan signed contracts in September last year tasking two French firms, BRL and Artelia, with conducting studies into the dam’s impact.

In the meantime, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s has stepped up his outreach to other Nile Basin countries; he visited Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni in December and hosted South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir in January.

Museveni announced during Sisi’s December visit that he would host a conference of Nile basin countries to discuss equitable sharing of the Nile’s resources, but this event has not yet taken place.
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