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Tehran urges Taliban to remove barriers to realization of Iran’s water rights

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hosssein Amir-Abdollahian (R) and Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi

Iran's Foreign Minister has called on the Taliban government in Afghanistan to remove “artificial barriers” to the realization of the Islamic Republic’s water rights.

Hosssein Amir-Abdollahian made the remarks on Thursday during a phone call with the acting Afghan foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi.

The Iranian official said a ranking delegation hailing from Iran’s Ministry of Energy were to travel to Afghanistan to work towards removal of standing obstacles in the way Iran’s availing itself of its water right from the Hirmand River.

Iran and Afghanistan have been locked in the protracted dispute for decades. The two sides signed a water-sharing accord in 1973, under which Afghanistan pledged to deliver an average of 820 million cubic meters of water per annum to Iran.

The Islamic Republic has repeatedly criticized Afghanistan for failing to honor the agreement.

What has made the dispute bitter is the construction of many hydroelectric projects on the river, most importantly the Kamal Khan dam in Nimrouz province, and the Kajaki dam 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Kandahar province.

On Wednesday, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raeisi called for “serious” pursuit of Iran’s water rights from Hirmand.

Raeisi instructed the country’s foreign and energy ministers to take up the matter as a priority, asserting that “a popular government would, under no pretexts, back down from pursuing the nation’s rights.”

Adding to his remarks, Amir-Abdollahian said Kabul’s allowing Tehran to exercise its water right in the dispute served as an “important barometer” of the Afghan governing body’s commitment to its international obligations towards the Islamic Republic.

He pointed to the southeastern Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchestan’s dependence on Hirmand’s water, saying if the issue was not “expeditiously and seriously” resolved, it would have an adverse effect on the other areas of cooperation between the countries.

The Afghan official, for his part, described the countries’ relations as “brotherly and aimed at helping the Afghan nation.”

“We are committed” to allowing Iran to exercise its water right,” he added, proposing formation of a joint technical and operational team that could restore the water’s direction towards the Iranian territory.

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