The State Visit of President El SiSi of the Arab Republic of Egypt to Ethiopia
Egypt’s President Abdel Fatteh El SiSi made a three day state visit to Ethiopia this week, following the signing of the Declaration of Principles on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam with Prime Minister Hailemariam and President Al-Bashir Sudan in Khartoum on Monday (March 23). During his visit to Addis Ababa, President El SiSi held talks with President Dr. Mulatu Teshome and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn as well as addressing a joint session of the Parliament, meeting with Ethiopia’s Public Diplomacy Delegation that visited Egypt last December and carried out other engagements.
President Dr. Mulatu Teshome welcomed President El SiSi to the National Palace on Tuesday (March 24). During their discussions, President Dr. Mulatu expressed his appreciation of the effort Egypt was making to deepen the relationship between Ethiopia and Egypt, both in general and over the issue of ensuring equitable water utilization. He mentioned, in particular, the signing of the Declaration of Principles the previous day in Khartoum. President Mulatu said this showed that by working hard we could change suspicion and misunderstanding into mutual cooperation, trust and confidence, and at the same time expand and deepen the relationship between the two nations. President El SiSi emphasized that the Egyptian people had open minds and hearts, not just because of their historical ties and close cultural relations with the people of Ethiopia but also because of their desire to transform these relations into a state of trust and confidence. President El SiSi said that the two sides had now taken a step forward but there was still much to do in the future. President Mulatu agreed on the need to strengthen bilateral relations and build mutual trust and benefit. He stressed that Ethiopia was constructing the GERD for the generation of power, to contribute to economic development, promotion of transboundary cooperation and regional integration as laid out in the Declaration of Principles. Ethiopia was, he said, committed to green development and this would be beneficial for all three countries, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.
President Dr. Mulatu pointed out Ethiopia was concentrating on the fight against poverty and on enhancing sustainable development. Elements of this included reversing deforestation and enriching the flow of water. He underlined that Ethiopia’s processes of industrialization and green development would in fact contribute positively to Egypt’s share of the waters of the Nile. Sustainable development, equitable utilization of the Nile waters and agreement on these would determine the destiny of the signatories, he said. President El SiSi welcomed President Mulatu’s comments and the reassurance of Ethiopia’s commitment to mutual benefits for all. He said Egypt had a clear stance: it supported Ethiopia’s Development and was ready for cooperation. This was nothing new. It was a reiteration of its previous position. He welcomed the signing of the Declaration of Principles but he also stressed that what was most important was to ensure all agreements advanced into binding legacies for future generations, promoting integrity, and interpreting the commitment and determination on the ground. President El SiSi said the Nile water and the GERD should not be the limit of cooperation. Ethiopia and Egypt, he said, should strengthen this in all fields to provide both sides with mutual prosperity.
Prime Minister Hailemariam also held talks with President El SiSi on Tuesday (March 24). Warmly welcoming the President and his delegation, the Prime Minister said the visit would further cement the existing relationship and cooperation between the two countries. He added that it gave the President and himself another opportunity to deepen and expand the scope of their collaboration on bilateral regional, continental and global issues. The Prime Minister underlined that Ethiopia and Egypt had the longest histories in Africa and had established deep spiritual and social bonds linking their two peoples. He said one indication of this was the centuries-long relationship between Ethiopia’s Orthodox Church and Egypt’s Coptic Church. Another was, of course, the indissoluble link of the River Nile which provided both countries with the basic means of life. President Abdel Fattah El-SiSi expressing his thanks for the warm hospitality accorded to him and his delegation, also noted the long-standing and strong bonds between the two countries. He added that “we also have to work hard to strengthen our bilateral relations and to achieve our goals.” He said Egypt and Ethiopia were approaching a new era, and there was a need to build confidence, trust and understanding. He said that a day earlier he and the Prime Minister, with President Al-Bashir, had signed the Declaration of Principles after long debate. This was very important for both nations but it was also the initial step in working toward a prosperous future. It was now time to consider raising the Egypt- Ethiopia Joint Ministerial Committee to a higher heads of government level. The President said Egypt would be offering complete scholarships for 50 Ethiopian students and for 150 doctors working on child cancer prevention. He invited the Prime Minister to visit Egypt for the inaugural ceremony for the new Suez Canal to be held in August. Prime Minister Hailemariam accepted the invitation.
After their talks the two leaders gave a press conference. Prime Minister Hailemariam noted that the signing of the Declaration of Principles the previous day affirmed the commitment of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan for closer cooperation. He also pointed out Ethiopia and Egypt shared common economic opportunities not just the River Nile, and their decision to enhance their economic cooperation was, he said, a major diplomatic achievement. President El SiSi said Ethiopia and Egypt had reached an agreement to work together in fighting terrorism in the region as well as boost bilateral cooperation, and raise the Joint Ministerial Committee to a higher level. The two sides agreed to use the Declaration of Principles as the basis to deepen trilateral relations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan and help implement their goals. Prime Minister Hailemariam and President El SiSi also agreed that their most important achievement was that the agreed political goodwill should be maintained for the further benefit of both nations. There would, they said, be no going back.