A few months ago, I wrote that negotiating solutions was not the easiest way to find bold compromises in big issues. This is even more so for existential ones, as is the case with the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. However, they are still the best solutions for establishing security and stability.
This is especially true when it comes to the need for a vital water supply, where technical, political and security aspects intertwine. Sitting at the negotiating table to work out solutions remains one of the best practices in international relations.
However, the effectiveness of this dynamic depends on the willingness of the parties involved. It hinges on how serious they are about finding solutions and alternatives that work for everyone. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has shown the world the breadth of his patience, perseverance and firm commitment to resolving the Renaissance Dam crisis through negotiations.
His recent statements on this matter also reflect his awareness of the repercussions and consequences of any military escalation subsequent to harming Egypt’s water supply due to this situation. Sisi did well to dismiss the threat by referring to Egypt’s red lines on this very touchy issue.
“No one will be able to take away a drop of water from Egypt or there will be a state of instability in the region that no one imagines, and no one should imagine they are out of our reach,” he said. “We are not threatening anyone. But no one can take away a drop of water from Egypt.”
His speech is worthy of a statesman who knows well Egypt’s civilizational and strategic status. He also seeks to preserve his people’s rights without engaging in uncalculated escalation, or getting caught up in the war of words and warmongering that many promote, especially on social media.
This speaks to his deep knowledge of the nation’s history and conditions, the priorities of his people, and his ability to lead his country to safe ground. To be honest, President Sisi has proven himself to be a man of the world. His red-line strategy in Libya has succeeded in deterring Turkey from further expansion to take over eastern Libya.
In the Renaissance Dam crisis, however, the statesman did not resort to this strategy in order to preserve the specificity of the issue and his willingness to set aside escalatory language with neighboring Ethiopia.
BUT THE RAPID developments on this issue have played a major role in driving Egyptian diplomacy toward a tougher tone to calm and reassure the Egyptian public to begin with. Second, it is to send a strong and clear message not only to the Ethiopian side but also to the major powers.
World powers have so far avoided playing the role they should assume to resolve this problem. As the crisis brews, it threatens to erupt into a regional conflict, the extent of which is uncertain.
In all objectivity, President Sisi continues to accumulate a remarkable and esteemed body of experience. He is moving his country forward with great strides toward a modern renaissance and development unprecedented in its history. This explains his obvious willingness, as his words imply, not to be preoccupied with unnecessary wars and conflicts, without denying his firm willingness to fight if his people’s future is at stake.
What should be noted here is the enormous popular impact of his recent statements on the Renaissance Dam issue. The reactions on social media and elsewhere tell of this. Although he seemed calm, his statements were read in the context of his rigorous and resolute military experience and his past positions, time and again, to protect Egypt and its people in the darkest and direst of circumstances.
It is sure at this juncture that the diplomatic choice to bridge the differences between Cairo, Khartoum and Addis Ababa is the safest and fittest way to reach an agreement that suits all parties and guarantees water rights and security.
This would ensure security, stability, sustainable development and prosperity for all countries, away from the conflicts, enmities and fallout that take years, if not decades, from which to recover. The leaders of the three countries are at a historic moment involving the survival and destiny of their people.
This requires wisdom beyond any desire for fleeting gains or media attention. A resolution must come that satisfies all parties and ensures all leaders a worthy place in the history of their countries as advocates of peace and development, not war and devastation.
The author is a UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate.