Water for Peace
"On May 29 Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan publicly denied newspaper reports that Ankara had offered water to Syria in return for engaging in indirect peace negotiations with Israel (CNNTurk, May 30)...
"At least some of the speculation, however, appears to be coming out of Israel rather than domestic opposition parties inside Turkey. On May 26 the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv ran a report quoting Alon Li’el, the former director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, as claiming that in the event of a comprehensive peace settlement, Syria would be prepared to allow Israel to continue to use water from the Golan Heights in return for Turkish water...
"'Only recently, the Syrians officially told the Turks that they are prepared to let Israel continue to use the water sources on the Golan Heights after a withdrawal on condition that the Turks compensate them with water supplies and assistance in setting up desalination plants,' Ma’ariv quoted Li’el as saying. 'I visited Turkey a few weeks ago, and I know from my talks with senior officials there that the subject is on the agenda. In question would be a significant increase in Turkey's water supply to Syria and a Turkish readiness to sell us a large quantity of water as well' (Ma’ariv, May 26).
"There has even been speculation that Turkey could revive its plans for a 'Peace Canal.' When they were first discussed in early 1990s, the plans envisaged the transportation of Turkish water to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, the territory currently administered by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and perhaps even Saudi Arabia (Ma’ariv, May 26). More recently, in 2004, Turkey and Israel signed an agreement under which Israel would import 50 million cubic meters of water per year from Turkey for a period of 20 years. Implementation of the agreement was indefinitely postponed in 2006, however, not least because it would be cheaper for Israel simply to build more desalination plants (see EDM, April 4).
"Regardless of whether Li’el’s claims are true, there is no doubt that Syria is eager to receive more water from Turkey, particularly from the Euphrates, which rises in Anatolia before flowing through Syria and Iraq. Under an agreement signed in 1987, Turkey guarantees a water flow of 500 cubic meters a second to Syria. However, Damascus has long argued that it needs more water in order to support its growing population."
Turkey, however, is facing a water shortage of its own.
(Crossposted to American Footprints)