Sisi's warm handshake with Ethiopian president sparks outrage in Egypt

Sisi's warm handshake with Ethiopian president sparks outrage in Egypt
2 min read
23 June, 2023
The Egyptian and Ethiopian presidents have been unable to reach a compromise over Nile water projects for several years.
Meetings between the two neighbouring leaders have become increasingly rare [Getty images]

Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has caused a stir after he was pictured in a smiling handshake with the Ethiopian president just days after Addis Ababa announced the fourth filling of a controversial mega-dam project, compromising Egyptian water supplies. 

Sisi and his Ethiopian counterpart met on the sidelines of the New Global Financing Pact summit in Paris this week. 

The Egyptian leader also met with European Commission chief Ursula Von Der Leyen, Ajay Banga of the World Bank and other African leaders. 

Observers were quick to analyse the two men's body language - some alleging that Sisi appears in a deferential position to Ahmed at a time when Ethiopia has just launched the fourth filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), despite protestations from countries downstream. 

Abiy Ahmed had been documenting most of his meetings at the summit on Twitter. His moment with Sisi, however, did not get a mention.

President Sisi recently called on Ethiopia to “compromise” over the bitterly contested GERD project earlier in June, leading to speculation about a new approach to the Ethiopian mega-dam which Egypt fears could deprive it of life-giving water. 

Sisi said he “stressed the importance of encouraging Ethiopia to adopt any compromise solution presented at the negotiating table which preserves its interests without abusing the rights of the downstream countries” - referring to Egypt and Sudan.

Sisi added that the goal was “to reach a legal and binding agreement regarding the filling and operation of the Renaissance Dam”.

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Negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan over the filling and operation of the dam have dragged on for years without any agreement.

While Ethiopia says the dam poses no threat to Egypt and Sudan, it has refused to sign a binding agreement regarding the operation of the dam.

Egypt in particular has been dependent for thousands of years on water from the Nile and fears that the dam could destroy its water supply and agriculture.