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A small respite for Iraqis: Turkey allows more water into Iraq

Having met with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on October 9th, Iraq’s newly elected Parliament Speaker Mohamed Al-Halbousi has announced yesterday that his country will benefit from higher water releases coming out of Turkey’s Ilisu dam.

This development comes at a time when Iraq is facing an acute environmental crisis which has especially impacted its southern regions, with Basra being the centre stage of deadly protests denouncing the lack of clean drinking water and other basic services over the past few months. The water releases also come at a time when Iraq is finally exiting a long post-electoral process which led to the nomination of two figures judged federating for the country: president Barham Salih and prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. Tasked with forming a non-sectarian government, Abdul-Mahdi will have to multiply positive developments to tackle Iraq’s multi-pronged issues which include endemic corruption, widespread mismanagement of resources and an infrastructure devastated by years of conflict.

Iraq is highly dependent on its neighbours’ goodwill as nearly 70% of its water supplies stem from external sources. Yet, Turkey’s gesture towards Iraq is likely to be temporary as the ruling AKP is hellbent on finishing one of the world’s largest river basin development project known as the Southeastern Anatolia Project. More negotiations on water management are therefore likely to be expected as Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is currently travelling to Baghdad to meet the new heads of state and government.

Sources:

Reuters, October 10, 2018, “Turkey agrees to release more water to ease Iraqi shortages”.

Financial Times, Erika Solomon and Laura Pitel, July 4, 2018, “Why water is a growing faultline between Turkey and Iraq”.

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