Egypt and Italy held their third round of political consultations to discuss bilateral relations and several regional and international issues, namely the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
The talks were held at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry in Cairo and chaired by the Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister for European Affairs, Ambassador Badr Abdel-Atti, and Italian Director General of Political Affairs at the Italian Foreign Ministry, Ambassador Pasquale Ferrara.
The consultations focused on addressing bilateral political, economic, and commercial relations, according to a statement issued by the Egyptian foreign ministry.
GERD, which has been under construction since 2011, has raised concerns of water shortages in Egypt and Sudan, which demand a binding legal agreement with Ethiopia to regulate the filling and operation of the dam.
Speaking at the 156th ordinary ministerial session of the Arab League in Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry reiterated Cairo's stance on GERD, stressing the importance of reaching a legally binding agreement that preserves Addis Ababa's development goals without harming Cairo and Khartoum's water rights.
"Adopting the rules for filling and operating the dam as per a legally binding agreement between the parties involved will prevent the region from sliding into a more complex scene with undesirable consequences."
Egypt suffers from a scarcity of freshwater resources and relies on the Nile River for more than 90 percent of its water. According to official statements, it has entered the "water poverty" era, in which the per capita share is less than 1,000 cubic meters annually.
Meanwhile, Ethiopian Minister of Water and Irrigation Seleshi Bekele announced that preparations are underway to generate electricity using the dam's turbines within the first months of the next Ethiopian new year, which begins Saturday, according to the Ethiopian calendar.
In an interview with the Ethiopian News Agency, the minister said that Ethiopia must use its natural resources to develop the country and fight poverty, and the dam is an essential tool in this process.
He stressed that his country has the full right to use its natural resources.
Bekele pointed out that these preparations come amid various challenges facing Ethiopia regarding the negotiations around the dam.