Turkey says more water for Iraq, Syria is unlikely

Turkey says more water for Iraq, Syria is unlikely

A water rights battle over the historic Tigris and Euphrates rivers simmered Thursday, as Iraq and Syria appealed for increased water flows to cope with severe drought but Turkey said it was already too overstretched, AP reported.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Turkey's southeast region was also suffering from low rainfall and drought but the country was still releasing more water than it was legally obligated to its neighbors out of humanitarian concerns.

He said Turkey was releasing on average 517 cubic meters per second instead of the required 500 cubic meters per second, sacrificing its own energy needs in the process.

"Water isn't abundant in Turkey," Yildiz said on the sidelines of a meeting between Turkey, Iraq and Syria to discuss water sharing. "We cannot top this amount any further."

Turkey is advocating using water more efficiently and sustainably through joint projects instead of increasing water flows.

Thursday's meeting was called to discuss setting up joint stations to measure water volume at the rivers, as well as exchanging more information about climate and drought and creating joint education programs for more sustainable water management.

Drought-stricken Iraq has accused its upstream neighbors Turkey and Syria of taking too much from the rivers and their tributaries. Below-average rainfall and insufficient water in the Euphrates and Tigris rivers have left Iraq parched for a second straight year, wrecking swaths of farm land and threatening drinking water supplies.

The rivers' low water flows are caused in part by the construction of dams in Turkey and Syria.

"The water situation in Iraq in the past two years has not been good at all," Iraq's Minister of Water Resources Abdul-Latif Jamal Rashid said. "We are suffering from a serious water shortage. Rainfall has decreased by 40 percent. The drought has intensified."

"This month Iraq will require more water from Turkey and Syria and we believe that this will not be denied," he said.

Turkey's Environment Minister Veysel Eroglu said in opening remarks that Turkey was sacrificing energy production to release water from dams and alleviate water shortages downstream.

"The Euphrates and Tigris basins are extremely arid," Eroglu said. "We are relinquishing our energy needs to make sure that Iraq and Syria are not left without water."

Nader al-Bunni, Syria's irrigation minister, said his country was also letting more water flow into Iraq than required by agreements.

"We understand Iraq's need for more water and we are letting 69 percent of the waters in the Euphrates for the bretheren people of Iraq. We have increased the amount from 58 percent to 69 percent," he said.

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