Iraqis see Ankara using water issue as leverage to extract gains |

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BAGHDAD – Iraqi Minister of Water Resources Mehdi Rashid Al-Hamdani called this week for expediting joint technical negotiations with Turkey to reach an agreement that guarantees Iraq’s water rights on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

In a meeting with Turkish Ambassador to Iraq Fatih Yildiz, Hamdani discussed the implications of the IIisu Dam on Iraq, and the need to speed up the negotiations between the two countries to reach a deal in accordance with the principles of international law and the United Nations Charter, according to the Iraqi News Agency (INA).

Iraq is facing a severe water crisis because of IIisu Dam and Turkish water plans for the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, which originate in Turkey and cut through both Syria and Iraq.

Around 70% of Iraq’s water resources flow from neighbouring countries, especially in the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, which run through Turkey.

Iraq has been trying for years to reach understandings with Turkey to maintain its water share of the Tigris and avoid a crisis that could disturb its already difficult conditions.

An aerial view of the ancient city of Hasankeyf which will soon be under water as part of a controversial dam Ilisu dam project. (AFP)
An aerial view of the ancient city of Hasankeyf which will soon be under water as part of a controversial dam Ilisu dam project. (AFP)

In his meeting with Hamdani, Yildiz stressed that “the Turkish government and the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided to resolve this file in the near future”, but Iraqi authorities say Ankara is trying to use the water issue as leverage to extract military and economic gains.

Experts also said that Turkey will never give up its ambitious hydroelectric and agricultural plans. Since 2019, Ankara has been filling the huge IIisu Dam, which aims to generate 1,200 megawatts of electricity for southeast Turkey, on the Tigris River, despite protests over the expected displacement of thousands of people and risks of creating water shortages in Iraq.

Alisu Dam, which has been decades in the making, is an essential part of Turkey’s “Southeastern Anatolia Project,” a multi-sector integrated regional development project aimed at developing poor Turkish regions with huge irrigation projects and electricity generation.

According to a study published by the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI), the project, which was completed from 1975–2017, is composed of 13 individual projects, including the construction of 22 dams and 19 hydropower plants that produce 27 gigawatts (GW) of electricity. The irrigated area is estimated at 1.8 million hectares, representing 9.7% of Turkish land.

Destroyed houses from the ancient city of Hasankeyf which will soon be under water as part of a controversial Ilisu dam project. (AFP)
Destroyed houses from the ancient city of Hasankeyf which will soon be under water as part of a controversial Ilisu dam project. (AFP)

Once it is filled, Ilisu will completely or partially flood 199 villages and the 12,000 year-old town of Hasankeyf, which is home to 78,000 people, according a report from a campaign group, The Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive.

Source: Arab Weekly

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