FM criticizes Turkey, Afghanistan over water rights

May 10, 2022 - 21:40

TEHRAN— In response to the enquiries of the MPs on Tuesday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian criticized lack of cooperation among neighboring countries in regard to water sharing.

Speaking in the open session of the parliament, Amir Abdollahian referred to the efforts of the Foreign Ministry on the issue of border waters, saying, “We have no disagreement with the representatives about border waters. Rather, we ask them for help so that we can bring this to an end.”

He added that he has brought up the issue of Iran-Turkey border waters with his Turkish counterpart.

“I have raised this issue at least three times in the past two meetings in New York and Tehran and in a telephone call with the Turkish Foreign Minister and asked him to pay serious attention to the construction of dams on the Aras River as a neighbor. Despite the fact that there was no bilateral agreement between Tehran and Ankara on water cooperation in the past, we made a request to the Turkish government four months ago to establish a joint bilateral water committee to address concerns in this area and to ensure that Turkish dams do not have a negative impact on water flowing into the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Iran’s top diplomat stated. 

Amir Abdollahian added that he also had detailed talks with the Iraqi foreign minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about border waters.

“The president has given instructions to the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and all relevant agencies in this regard, and steps have been taken in this regard,” the foreign minister underlined.

Expressing his dissatisfaction with the dams built by Turkey, Amir Abdollahian stated, “We at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are not satisfied with the construction of a Turkish dam on the border waters and we declare loudly that this action by Turkey is not acceptable to us and we oppose it. The government and the Majlis (parliament) must work together in this regard. We are also in constant contact with the Iraqi government, because both Iran and Iraq are suffering from this issue.”

Asked why the Foreign Ministry has not yet pursued the issue of Turkish dam construction through international bodies, the top diplomat said if the Turkish government was a party to the 1997 New York Convention, Iran could have complained against the Turkish government in various international organizations.
“Because Turkey is not a party to this convention, we have to pursue the issue through dialogue and bilateral negotiations,” Amir Abdollahian explained.

Referring to the visit of a delegation from the Foreign Ministry and experts from the Energy Ministry to Turkey in the form of a joint water border committee, Amir Abdollahian said fruitful talks took place during the visit and a delegation from Turkey will visit Iran soon. 

“The necessary political and diplomatic steps have been taken between Iran and Turkey on this issue, and I thank you and the representatives for paying attention to this issue,” the top diplomat noted. 

Amir Abdollahian highlights dissatisfaction with interim Taliban governing body

Elsewhere in his remarks at the open session of the parliament, Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian responded to the query of the Zabol MP regarding Iran’s water rights from the Helmand River. 

“We are not satisfied with the interim governing body of Afghanistan on the issue of Helmand River water rights, but the positive part that happened is that we were able to institutionalize this issue in diplomatic negotiations through negotiations and agreements we had with officials and the head of the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We institutionalized the fact that they must respect the right of the Islamic Republic of Iran regarding the issue of Helmand River,” the foreign minister said.

The foreign minister stated that the positive point is that with the efforts made part of the body of water in Kamal Khan Dam was released and many efforts were made in this regard. 

“Of course, stonewalling was carried out in this regard in Afghanistan, but at the end they have agreed that they should give our water rights,” Amir Abdollahian added. 

He added that when the Kamal Khan Dam was full of water, Iran asked the Taliban governing body to open the valves and release the water.

“Afghanistan said that if we open the gates, the water would be reversed and our turbines would have problems due to the lack of dredging. We said that we were ready to assist them technically for dredging, and even the government instructed the relevant departments in the Ministry of Energy to provide them with our facilities for dredging as soon as possible and to act. Nevertheless, the Afghan side said that we need $3 million, and if you give it to us, we have companies that are dredging this route," he said, adding that eventually, with much follow-up and pressure on the interim Afghan governing body part of this dam was opened, although Iran did not receive much.

The foreign minister stated that one of the criteria and prerequisites for Iran to recognize the interim governing body in Afghanistan is whether they will act honestly in the matter of Helmand River water rights in accordance with the 1973 agreement or not. This is one of the indicators of how to interact with this interim governing body in the future.

“Now one of the seasons of the water year is coming to an end, but we hope that with the efforts that are being made, we will not face any problems in the rest of the water year. Two weeks ago, in a phone call with the acting foreign minister Afghanistan, I said that our experts are going to visit the river upstream of the Kajaki Dam to see what the water reduction index is in the upstream parts of the dam. So far, the interim Afghan government has not provided any practical assistance, but the acting Afghan foreign minister has promised to allow the visit in less than a few weeks,” he added, criticizing the interim Taliban governing body.

The foreign minister stated that therefore he hopes that the Afghan side understands the sensitivities, concerns and seriousness of the Islamic Republic of Iran in this concerning time and acts seriously and show commitment to what it has accepted based on the 1973 agreement and other existing agreements.

“The subject of the Helmand Agreement and the 1973 Agreement is an internationally registered international agreement between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Afghanistan, and we are pleased that the interim governing body of Afghanistan has a clear understanding of this issue. One of our main issues with the Afghan side in the field of national interests is water. The issue of Iran's water rights is one of the examples of how Iran interacts with the interim governing body of Afghanistan, which will play a decisive role in strategic policies on this issue,” he cautioned. 

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