Spotlight: Turkey, Iraq agree to work together to address regional water issues

Source: Xinhua| 2019-08-07 05:35:33|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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ANKARA, Aug. 6 (Xinhua) -- Turkey and Iraq have agreed to establish a water resources center in the Iraqi capital of Bagdad to study and address water issues in the region, a move aiming to overcome the longstanding dispute between the two neighboring countries.

Veysel Eroglu, Turkish special representative to Iraq, announced on July 25 that both countries have drafted an action plan to address water issues amid scorching heat waves in the world affected by climate change.

Meanwhile, the more cautious Iraqi Water Resources Minister Jamal Adili said both parties favor a solution as water talks present a great opportunity to benefit both Turks and Iraqis.

It is worth noting that the continuing heat waves and droughts, which have created water shortages in the Middle East, have made the water issue between Iraq and Turkey more critical than ever.

According to satellites that monitor climate, the Tigris-Euphrates Basin, which is a transboundary basin distributed between Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, is losing water faster than any other area in the world.

In the past months, Turkey launched an effort to help resolve the water problem of neighboring Iraq amid bilateral tensions over decreasing flow rates in the Tigris and Euphrates river system whose water is shared by the two countries.

Despite recent positive response from Iraq, Turkey's roadmap will not be easily implemented given their different claims and opinions on the complex matter.

Experts, nevertheless, hailed the step taken by Ankara and Bagdad and their resolve to tackle the difficult issue.

"This is a positive step in the right direction and also in line with the long-standing cooperation over water development since the 1946 Treaty of Good Neighborly Relations between Iraq and Turkey," Muserref Yetim, a Turkish scholar in the Program in International Relations at New York University, told Xinhua.

However, there was no quick fix to the water contention between Ankara, Bagdad and Damascus under the current circumstances, said Yetim, who is a expert on water issues.

"The end of the Syrian civil war is a precondition that seems hard to achieve in the short and medium terms. In the long run, emergence of accountable and transparent governments at the Euphrates-Tigris Basin will facilitate the sustainable and environmentally sound water resource management," she noted.

As one of the most water-rich countries in the Mediterranean, Turkey, though, has been facing dramatically decreasing availability of water resources over the years with a population of some 82 million as well as droughts and climate change.

Turkey is building eight dams on the tributaries of the Tigris and 14 on Euphrates tributaries for its Southeastern Anatolia Project, which has incensed downstream countries.

Iraq says after defeating the Islamic State militant group in 2018, water is crucial in restoring peace and stability as more than 80 percent of the nation's water goes to agriculture which provides a livelihood to more than a third of its population.

Despite warnings from some observers against the rise of conflicts in the Middle East over water, Yetim rules out such a dramatic scenario while calling for more international cooperation.

"Previous severe droughts did not cause wars. However, water issue could become entangled with ethnic, religious, oil conflicts and may serve as a pretext," she noted.

"The establishment of more inclusive political and economic institutions can create more resilient and open societies that can solve their problems peacefully and have capacities to withstand adverse shocks like water scarcity, droughts and associated problems with the climate changes," Yetim concluded.