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Turkey’s Dam Building on Border Water Resources Unacceptable to Iran: FM

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir abdollahian expressed Tehran’s opposition to Turkey’s move to construct dams on joint water resources at the border areas.

Speaking at a session of the Iranian Parliament on Tuesday, Amir abdollahian said he has called on his Turkish counterpart at least three times over the past months –in two meetings in New York and Tehran and during a telephone conversation- to pay serious attention to (reconsidering) the construction of dams on the Aras River on the grounds of neighborliness.

Although Tehran and Ankara have not signed any bilateral treaty on water cooperation, Iran made a request four months ago for the formation of a joint bilateral committee in order to address concerns about the water issues and make sure that Turkey’s building of dams would not adversely affect the water flowing into Iran, he added.

“We in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are not convinced of Turkey’s dam construction on the border water (resources) and express it loudly that such a Turkish move is not acceptable to us and we are opposed to it,” the foreign minister stated, calling for interaction between the Iranian administration and parliament to deal with the issue.

He also noted that Iran is in contact with the Iraqi government, as both Iran and Iraq would suffer harms from Turkey’s dam building plans.

Asked about Iran’s plans to pursue the case internationally, Amirabdollahian said, “If the government of Turkey was a party to the 1997 New York Convention (on the law of the non-navigational uses of international watercourses), we would be able to sue the Turkish government at the international organizations. But since Turkey is not a party to that convention, we have to pursue the case through dialogue and bilateral negotiations.”

Pointing to a recent visit that a delegation of experts from Iran’s Foreign Ministry and Energy Ministry paid to Turkey and the fruitful talks held in the trip, Amir abdollahian said a Turkish delegation is going to visit Iran soon. “All necessary legal, political and diplomatic measures in this regard have been taken between Iran and Turkey.”

Iran’s Department of Environment had already warned that Turkey’s move to construct Ilisu Dam over Tigris River would pose a serious environmental threat to Iraq and eventually Iran by reducing the entry of Tigris water to Iraqi territory by 56%.

Over the past 50 years, Turkey’s State Hydraulic Works (known by its Turkish acronym DSI) has built 22 dams and 19 hydropower plants on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, as part of its multi-billion dollar Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP). The GAP’s effect on downstream rivers has left large parts of Syria and Iraq in severe drought.

Over the last two decades, the DSI also has been damming water resources on both the Kura and Aras rivers. Turkey has substantially increased its dam-building efforts on the upper Aras river. Compared to the projects on the Kura, Turkey has built a greater number of dams on the Aras, though with a lower capacity. From 2012 to 2014, Turkey constructed six hydropower plants on the Aras and is currently planning eight more.

More and potentially larger projects are still in the queue. Among these, the recently announced Soylemez Dam particularly stands out. With a planned height of 113 meters and a carrying capacity of 1.4 billion cubic meters, the project would create the fourth-largest reservoir in Turkey.

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