Turkey halts filling Tigris dam after Iraq complains of water shortages

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File photo showing the Tigris river flows through the ancient town of Hasankeyf, which will be submerged by the Ilisu dam in southeastern Turkey, September 27, 2017. (Reuters)
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File photo showing on going construction work on the Ilisu dam in southeastern Turkey, September 27, 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 07 June 2018
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Turkey halts filling Tigris dam after Iraq complains of water shortages

  • Turkey has been heavily criticized over its water policies and their impact on the environment as thousands of villages were submerged among them a 12,000-year-old town
  • Around 70 percent of Iraq’s water resources flow from neighboring countries, especially in the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers which run through Turkey.

ANKARA/BAGHDAD: Turkey has temporarily stopped filling a huge dam on the Tigris River after complaints from neighboring Iraq, which is suffering water shortages, officials said on Thursday.
Turkey’s ambassador to Baghdad and Iraq’s water minister also said that the two countries had agreed that when Ankara resumes filling the Ilisu dam in July it will still allow sufficient water to flow into Iraq.
The dam, more than 20 years in the making, will generate electricity for a large area of southeast Turkey. But it has been heavily criticized over its impact on the environment and on the tens of thousands of villagers who will be displaced. Its waters will also submerge a 12,000-year-old town.
Turkey started filling the Ilisu dam last week, prompting deep concern over water shortages in Iraq. Ankara had already delayed the planned start by three months at the request of its southern neighbor.
Turkey’s ambassador to Iraq, Fatih Yildiz, said on Twitter that Turkey stopped filling the dam on President Tayyip Erdogan’s orders to address Iraq’s worries.
“As of this moment, Tigris waters are being transferred to Iraq without touching a drop of it in Ilisu,” Yildiz said. “With the second decision to postpone, we have shown once again that we can put our neighbor’s needs ahead of our own.”
The filling will resume on July 1, he said, adding that water will still flow into Iraq in accordance with agreements between the two countries.

“GIGANTIC PROJECT“
Iraq’s Minister of Water Resources Hassan Al-Janabi said Iraq had asked for the postponement and that the two countries had agreed on a way to fill it while still allowing adequate water supplies to Iraq.
“We asked them to postpone until the end of June. Turkey agreed and we were very happy,” he told a news conference in Baghdad. “The way the dam gets filled is very important...and we found a filling method that guarantees Iraq’s interests.”
Around 70 percent of Iraq’s water resources flow from neighboring countries, especially in the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers which run through Turkey.
The dam, which first got Turkish government approval in 1997, is a key part of Turkey’s Southeastern Anatolia Project, designed to improve its poorest and least developed region.
But Western export credit insurers quit the project saying it did not meet international standards on the environment and preservation of cultural heritage. The government later secured credit from three local banks to continue construction.
Erdogan said in an election rally two weeks ago that the 9 billion lira ($2.00 billion) dam, which he described as a “truly gigantic project” would start generating electricity next year.
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.
Hasankeyf was used by the Romans as a fortress to ward off Persians. The town was later destroyed by Mongols and rebuilt in the 11th century by Seljuk Turks. Some of the ancient structures have been moved to a nearby area.
($1 = 4.4950 liras) (Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen Editing by Dominic Evans and Andrew Heavens)


Divided Arab economic summit: We must help suffering refugees

Updated 21 January 2019
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Divided Arab economic summit: We must help suffering refugees

  • Lebanese foreign minister Gebran Bassil called for 'effective solutions' for the return of Syrian refugees to their country
  • Summit also called for dialogue over growing tensions between Israel and Palestine

BEIRUT: The fourth Arab Economic and Social Development Summit was held in Beirut on Sunday, in an effort to, among other things, find ways to alleviate the suffering of refugees in the Middle East.

The summit, though attended by representatives from 20 Arab nations, was soured by the absence of most Arab heads of state, and was divided over several issues, including the absence of Syrian delegates, and a boycott by Libya.

The summit did, though, call for dialogue with the international community over growing tensions between Israel and Palestine.

Delegates expressed their support for the Palestinian people, and cited the “collective responsibility” of all parties towards maintaining the city of Jerusalem’s “Islamic and Christian identity.”

In a statement, the summit declared: “We reiterate Palestinian refugees’ rights of return and compensation, according to the UN General Assembly’s resolution 194 of 1948.”

Delegates also discussed at great length the need for international cooperation to support the growing digital economy across the region. They emphasized “the importance of building the necessary capacity” to benefit from the digital economy, and praised the initiative launched by the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, to create a sovereign investment fund to support the development of technology in the Gulf and the Middle East.

They urged all Arab nations to “support this initiative to strengthen the joint Arab economy,” and called on other Arab banks and funds to invest in it.

The summit also praised the role of small and medium businesses across the Arab world for their contribution to flourishing Arab economies, as well as the implementation of the Pan-Arab Renewable Energy Strategy 2030, to ensure power across the region becomes cleaner and more sustainable.

The summit was far from harmonious, though, with the Lebanese foreign minister, Gebran Bassil, addressing the hall to ask the international community “to assume its responsibilities by finding effective solutions for the return of Syrian refugees to their country.”

Bassil called on Arab nations and others to “shoulder the burden, honor their commitments and meet the refugees’ needs.”

There were also disputes over the attendance of the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, as well as the boycott by Libyan delegates.

“I am saddened because of the absence of the Libyan delegation, and by the circumstances that led to this point,” Arab League president, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said.

Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun, echoed the words of his foreign minister, calling on the international community “to exert all efforts to provide the safe return of Syrian refugees to their country, and to present incentives so they can contribute to their country’s reconstruction.”

He proposed the establishment of an international Arab bank to help affected countries overcome the crisis, and invited established Arab funds to Beirut to discuss his proposals.

“I deplore the absence of other Arab presidents and kings, but each of them has his reason. Our union remains of great importance given that we will not be able to address the challenges facing our region and peoples, unless we agree on key issues,” Aoun said.

The next Arab Economic and Social Development Summit will be held in Mauritania in 2023.