Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has for a binding deal on the operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance hydropower dam, as he made his first visit to neighbouring Sudan on Saturday.
The Egyptian president also signalled support for Sudan in a dispute with Ethiopia over an area on the border between the two countries where there have recently been armed skirmishes.
Both Egypt and Sudan lie downstream from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which Addis Ababa says is crucial to its economic development.
Sudan fears the dam, which lies on the Blue Nile close to the border with Sudan, could increase the risk of flooding and affect the safe operation of its own Nile dams, while water-scarce Egypt fears its supplies from the Nile could be hit.
After years of diplomatic talks over the project stalled, Egypt and Sudan’s positions have drawn closer as Cairo has engaged in a flurry of diplomacy over the issue in the past two years.
Earlier last week, Egypt’s chief of staff signed a military cooperation agreement with his Sudanese counterpart during a visit to Sudan.
“We affirmed the necessity of returning to serious and effective negotiations with the aim of reaching, as soon as possible and before the next flood season, a just, balanced and legally binding agreement,” Sisi said after meeting Sudan’s leaders.
Sudan recently proposed that the United States, European Union, United Nations and African Union should actively mediate in the dispute, rather than simply observing talks, a suggestion that Egypt supports.
Meanwhile, Ethiopia has opposed the addition of mediators to an existing African Union-led process.