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)


Tunisian parliament approves prime minister’s cabinet reshuffle

A general view shows a plenary session at the Tunisian parliament in the capital Tunis on November 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 15 min 44 sec ago
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Tunisian parliament approves prime minister’s cabinet reshuffle

  • The prime minister has been caught up in a dispute with the leader of the party, Hafedh Caid Essebsi, who is also the president’s son, and has accused Chahed of failing to tackle high inflation, unemployment and other problems

TUNIS: The Tunisian parliament approved on Monday a cabinet reshuffle proposed by Prime Minister Youssef Chahed amid a political and economic crisis.
The approval is widely seen in Tunisia as a victory for Chahed over his political opponents, including his party Nidaa Tounes, who demanded that he step down because of his government’s failure to revive the economy.
Youssef Chahed named 10 new ministers last week in a cabinet reshuffle he hopes will inject fresh blood into his government.
Chahed named Jewish businessman Rene Trabelsi as minister of tourism in the Muslim Arab country, only the third member of the small minority of 2,000 Jews to enter a cabinet since Tunisia’s independence in 1956.
A former foreign minister under the former president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, Kamel Morjan, became minister in charge of the public service, Tunisia’s main employer.
Portfolios such as finance, foreign affairs and the interior ministries were unchanged.
Lawmakers voted to approve the reshuffle, giving Chahed support to push on with economic reforms asked by lenders.
“Since two years we were working under random shelling from friendly fire,” Chahed said in speech in the parliament.
“We have not found political support in the reforms and in the fight against corruption, this is no longer possible as we want clarity to move forward in reviving the economy and ending the political crisis,” he said.
The prime minister has been caught up in a dispute with the leader of the party, Hafedh Caid Essebsi, who is also the president’s son, and has accused Chahed of failing to tackle high inflation, unemployment and other problems.
The party’s demands have been supported by the influential UGTT union, which has also opposed Chahed’s plans to overhaul loss-making public companies.
The political wrangling has alarmed donors which have kept Tunisia afloat with loans granted in exchange for a promise of reforms such as cutting a bloated public service.
“This reshuffle is a coup against the winning party in the 2014 elections ... Chahed did not consult with Nidaa Tounes about this reshuffle,” Sofian Toubel, an official in Nidaa Tounes said.
Tunisia has been hailed for its democratic transition since 2011 but the North African country has been hit by economic crisis and militant attacks since then.