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Iraq’s Abadi criticizes Turkey for 'political' dam filling

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi (AFP photo)

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has criticized Turkey for holding water behind a dam, a decision which affects irrigation in Iraq, saying the move serves Ankara’s internal political purposes.

“... the whole issue is political and electoral, and Turkey is trying to use it to win the votes of its farmers”, Abadi said Tuesday, making a clear reference to the upcoming snap votes in Turkey where the AKP party of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking to consolidate its ruling position.

Abadi said filling the basins at Ilisu earlier than expected would not affect Iraq’s supply of drinking water but insisted that his government would pursue the case in contact with Turkey and neighboring Iran, which would also be affected by Turkey’s decision.

However, Turkey’s ambassador to Iraq said that his country had earlier informed Abadi’s administration of the decision about Ilisu, adding that it won’t harm Iraq’s interest.

“We will not take any step without consultation with the neighboring country on how we can cooperate and provide support during any problem,” Fatih Yildiz said in a briefing in Baghdad, adding, “This is an important matter for both countries.”

Turkey’s Ministry of Forest and Water Management said only a portion of the water running through Ilisu had been held. A spokesman of the ministry said the operations would not affect the flow of water on the Tigris as Turkey was “partially” filling the dam’s basin by closing one of the valves on the first of three diversion tunnels. The official said the two other tunnels would be closed three and six months later respectively.

A fisherman stands next to his boat in the Tigris river in Baghdad on June 3, 2018. (AFP photo)

Iraq is already suffering from a drought that has reduced water levels in lakes and rivers. The public and the media in the Arab country have blamed Turkey for the water shortage as both Tigris and the Euphrates rivers which make up around 70 percent of Iraq’s water resources flow through Turkey.

Many expect a next government of Iraq which will be formed based on results of the last month parliamentary election to resolve the dam issue with Ankara.

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