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Sunday, 11 April 2021

Egypt deepens military, intel ties with upstream countries amid deepening rift with Ethiopia

Egypt and Sudan turned down a proposal by Ethiopia to exchange data from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam ahead of the second filling this summer. The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry invited the two countries to nominate operators to share data in an initiative it said could help to build confidence and improve communication, a move that was swiftly rejected by Cairo and Khartoum which both reiterated their demands for a legally binding agreement. The Egyptian Irrigation Ministry described the offer as a “blatant attempt” to draw Egypt’s approval on the second filling of the dam, and Sudan said that, while data exchange is “necessary,” it would not agree to the proposal without a proper agreement on the filling and operation of the dam.

Egypt ramps up military cooperation with African neighbors amid GERD tensions: Egypt and Uganda signed a military intelligence sharing agreement Monday as tensions in the region heightened over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Reuters reports, citing a statement by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces. Uganda — which controls the source of the White Nile, Lake Victoria — has in the past opposed Egypt’s attempts to influence hydropower projects in the Nile, but the new agreement should see the two countries sharing intelligence on a regular basis.

And another with Burundi: Egypt signed an agreement with Burundi at the weekend that will see the two countries’ armed forces conduct joint exercises and work together on training, the Egyptian Armed Forces said in a statement. The agreement is part of earlier moves to boost ties with Horn of Africa and Nile Basin countries in a bid to gain their support in the GERD dispute.

Why does this matter? The agreement — which came following the failure of negotiations between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia last week to reach an agreement on the filing and operation of the dam — is part of Egypt’s significant push over the past several month to bolster its ties with African countries and get the regional and international community’s backing on its position on GERD. In addition to pursuing diplomatic channels, Cairo has also been flexing its military muscles of late, including with a recent joint air drill with Khartoum.

The GERD and Libya topped the agenda at a meeting held yesterday between President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and his Tunisian counterpart Kais Saied, according to an Ittihadiya statement. The Tunisian president vowed in a joint press conference to give his country’s support for Egypt’s position in the dispute. “We are looking for just fair solutions, but Egypt’s national security is ours, and Egypt’s position… will be ours,” he said (watch, runtime 17:32:). Saied’s three-day visit to Egypt, which will wrap up today, marks the first since he assumed his position in 2019.

The United States says Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan need to wrap up GERD: US national security adviser Jake Sullivan brought up the talks, as well as the Tigray conflict, in a phone call with Ethiopia’s deputy PM Demeke Mekonnen, the White House said in a statement. The US recently created a special envoy for the Horn of Africa tasked with, among other things, overseeing the resolution of the GERD dispute.

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