Egypt Keen to Restore Ties With Turkey, Begin Ethiopia Dam Talks

Egypt is seeking ways to restore ties with Turkey and has no interest in armed conflict with Ethiopia over a controversial Nile dam, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said.

The Arab nation also doesn’t believe the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan signals a broader disengagement from the region, Shoukry said in an interview Wednesday with Bloomberg TV. 

Discussing Turkey, Shoukry said Egypt is “eager to find a resolution” and a formula for restoring normal relations with Ankara, but more work needs to be done. When Egypt is “satisfied” that outstanding issues have been resolved, the door will be open for further progress, Shoukry said.

Relations between the regional powers have soured over Turkey’s support for Islamists, and spiraled downward with the 2013 military ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi amid widespread anti-government street protests. Tensions escalated further when Turkey supported the internationally recognized Libyan government in Tripoli, while Egypt backed a rival led by military strongman Khalifa Haftar. 

Egypt Keen to Restore Ties With Turkey, Begin Ethiopia Dam Talks

The two countries have been trying improve relations amid a broader push to bridge divides in the region since U.S. President Joe Biden’s election in November. On Wednesday, Egypt and Turkey agreed further steps should be taken to normalize relations, according to a joint statement after talks in Ankara.

On tensions with Ethiopia over its filling and operating of a controversial Nile dam, Shoukry said Egypt was committed to talks and keen to avoid any military conflict. Egyptian officials have previously said that all options are open.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has stressed that access to water was a national security matter for his country and constituted a “red line” that can’t be crossed. 

Egypt and Sudan are concerned that the Ethiopian dam will curb supplies to the Nile River, on which they rely for the majority of their water needs.

Ethiopian Water, Irrigation & Energy Minister Seleshi Bekele echoed Shoukry’s comments and urged Egypt to return to talks about the disputed reservoir.

“Conflict has never been an option for Ethiopia,” he said in an interview in Addis Ababa. “We are waiting for them to return to the negotiations.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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