Egypt is committed to a diplomatic solution to Ethiopia's dam crisis – Sisi

CAIRO, June 20 (Reuters) – Egypt is committed to using diplomacy to resolve a crisis with Ethiopia over its construction of a giant hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Saturday, addressing stalled talks on the issue.

The talks were halted once again on Wednesday, this time only about a fortnight before the expected start-up of the $4 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is being built near Ethiopia’s border with Sudan and is the centrepiece in its bid to become Africa’s biggest power exporter.

Cairo said on Friday it had called on the United Nations Security Council to intervene to restart the talks.

“When we moved to the Security Council… that was (because) we are always keen to take the diplomatic and political path until its end,” Sisi said in a speech at an air force base.

“We need to move strongly towards concluding the negotiations and reach an agreement… and solutions that achieve the interest of all,” he said.

Egypt, which is almost entirely dependent on the Nile for its fresh water supplies, is anxious to secure a legally binding deal that would guarantee minimum flows and a mechanism for resolving disputes before the dam starts operating.

The latest talks, which had started on June 9 over video conference, followed a previous round of negotiations in Washington, which ended without agreement in February.

On Saturday, Sisi recalled that in a speech he gave to the Ethiopian parliament five years ago he said that while Egypt respects Ethiopians’ need for development they also should respect its needs for “life”.

Earlier on Saturday, Sisi ordered his army to be ready to carry out any mission inside or outside the country amid tensions over regional rival Turkey’s intervention in neighbouring Libya. (Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad and Ahmed Tolba Editing by Frances Kerry)