ANKARA – Associated Press
RESOURCES: Environment Minister Veysel Eroğlu speaks at a meeting on water-sharing issues in Ankara. In a change of heart, Turkey says it will strive to increase the amount of water it releases to Syria and Iraq through the historic Tigris and Euphrates rivers. AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN
In a change of heart, Turkey said late last week that it would strive to increase the amount of water it releases to Syria and Iraq through the historic Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
The country, however, warned that it too is suffering from a severe drought.
Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız had previously said his country was already too overstretched with water and power demands and could not raise the flow of water any further.
Drought-stricken Iraq has accused upstream neighbors Turkey and Syria of taking too much from the rivers and their tributaries. “It is very important, and Iraq is already getting much less water due to some dams constructed in Turkey and Syria,” said Nagesh Kumar, a water expert at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. “There is potential for international conflict in this region over water disputes.”
Turkey’s environment minister, Veysel Eroğlu, said his country would try to release as much water as possible over its legal obligation of 500 cubic meters per second. “There is a serious water crisis in Iraq. We are taking this into account,” he said at the end of a meeting Thursday with the Iraqi and Syrian irrigation ministers. “But our own capabilities are limited.”
Eroğlu would not say how much more water Turkey would allow its neighbors. Yıldız said Turkey was already releasing on average 517 cubic meters per second, sacrificing its own needs to help others.
Abdul-Latif Jamal Rasheed, Iraq’s minister of water resources, said Turkey and Syria had shown understanding.
“The situation in Iraq is serious. We are asking that they help us in our hour of need,” Rasheed said. “They have said that they will help us as much as they can.”
Rasheed did not say how much water was currently flowing into Iraq and there were discrepancies in the figures the ministers gave concerning water levels.