In the first visit by an Egyptian president to South Sudan, President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said he and President Salva Kiir discussed regional security and the usage of Nile waters, but he didn’t mention the country currently at the heart of either issue, Ethiopia.
The statement after Saturday’s meeting made no mention of the deadly conflict inside neighboring Ethiopia, which is also in a dispute with Egypt over a massive dam that Addis Ababa is nearing completion on the Blue Nile.
El-Sissi in the statement said he and Kiir discussed maximizing the usage of Nile waters, which he said should be a source of hope and national development. His government has described Ethiopia’s dam project as an existential threat to Egypt, which relies on the Nile for most of its water supply.
Ethiopia says the dam is needed for development and poverty alleviation. Talks among Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan on the dam have been challenging as issues including the mediation of any disputes have yet to be agreed on.
The region has been watching to see whether Egypt would try to take advantage of Ethiopia’s current instability as Ethiopia’s federal government clashes with the country’s heavily armed northern Tigray region.
Egypt’s president also said he’s asking the international community to lift sanctions on South Sudan, which is slowly recovering from five years of civil war that killed nearly 400,000 people. The implementation of a peace deal is behind schedule.
For his part, South Sudan’s president said he stressed the importance of dialog in dealing with issues affecting regional security and the “responsibility of Africans to seek African solutions to African problems.”