October 10, 2018 / 3:25 PM / 12 days ago

Turkey agrees to release more water to ease Iraqi shortages

ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - President Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to increase releases of water from a dam in southeastern Turkey to neighbouring Iraq, which is struggling with a water crisis, the speaker of the Iraqi parliament said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Water pours in Al Bida water tanks project in Basra, Iraq September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani/File Photo

Turkey is holding back water on the Tigris river to fill a reservoir behind its Ilisu dam, a step that has alarmed Iraq and caused shortages particularly in the southern province of Basra.

FILE PHOTO: The Tigris river flows through the ancient town of Hasankeyf, which will be significantly submerged by the Ilisu dam being constructed, in southeastern Turkey, August 26, 2018. REUTERS/Sertac Kayar/File Photo

Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, who met Erdogan in Turkey on Tuesday, said the president had agreed to an Iraqi request for more supplies. This was “in order to guarantee water reaches all of Iraq’s provinces, especially Basra”, Halbousi said in a statement.

Turkey temporarily stopped filling the reservoir in June but agreed with Iraq to resume doing so in July. Around 70 percent of Iraq’s water supplies flow from neighbouring countries, especially in the Tigris and Euphrates which run through Turkey.

Iraq’s water shortages have led it to take measures such as bans on rice planting, and driven farmers to leave their land. Basra province has seen months of street protests over the lack of clean drinking water.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is due in Baghdad on Thursday.

Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; editing by John Stonestreet and David Stamp

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