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Amid water dispute, Afghan govt. says committed to further cooperation with Iran

A high-ranking Iranian military delegation meets with Afghan officials in Kabul, on May 20, 2023. (Photo by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense)

The ruling Taliban government in Afghanistan has expressed its commitment to further cooperation with Tehran in different fields amid a dispute over Afghanistan’s violation of Iran’s water rights from the Hirmand River.

The Afghan Defense Ministry issued a statement on Saturday, after a meeting between Afghan officials and an Iranian military delegation, headed by Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Brigadier General Bahram Hosseini Motlagh, in Kabul.

Hosseini Motlagh’s Afghan counterpart, Mali Khan Sadiq welcomed the Iranian delegation and pointed to the good cooperation and relations between the two neighboring countries, the statement read.

Sadiq said the Afghan government has always sought good relations with the Islamic Republic and is committed to further cooperation in various fields.

During the meeting, the two sides discussed border issues and stressed enhancing joint cooperation and resolving problems through dialogue and relevant authorities, the statement added.

The meeting was held against the backdrop of a dispute over Afghanistan’s violation of Iran’s water rights from the Hirmand River (also known as Helmand).

Hirmand is the longest watercourse in Afghanistan. It rises in the Hindu Kush Mountains west of Kabul and flows in an arc southwest until it empties out into the Hamoun wetlands, located in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan Province.

Following more than a century of rifts over Hirmand’s water supply, Iran and Afghanistan signed a treaty in 1973 to establish a means of regulating each country’s use of the river.

Iran should receive an annual share of 820 million cubic meters from Hirmand under the accord, which Afghanistan has grossly violated in letter and spirit, endangering the lives of many Iranians who rely on Hamoun wetlands for drinking water, agriculture, and fishing.

Afghanistan has also built dams on the Hirmand which have constricted the water flow into Iran.

On Thursday, Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi warned Afghan rulers not to violate the water rights of the Iranian people and “swiftly” supply the country with its share of water from the Hirmand.

No compromise on Iran’s water share: Parl. speaker

Meanwhile, Iran’s Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf on Sunday called for the “full and precise” implementation of the 1973 treaty, saying that there will be “no compromise” on Iran’s water share.

“The inviolable water treaty is part of the long neighborhood history of the two countries and nations of Iran and Afghanistan. The deal’s full and precise implementation benefits both nations and guarantees mutual interests... This is a vital issue and there will be no compromise on it,” he told an open parliamentary session.

Qalibaf further urged the Afghan authorities “to deliver a constructive response to Iran’s positive will in this regard and prevent a serious problem in bilateral ties given sufficient water reserves on Afghan soil.”

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