Turkey and Iraq have agreed to establish a joint water resources center in Baghdad to study and address water issues in the region.
Speaking at a press conference in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, the Turkish Presidency's Special Representative to Iraq Veysel Eroğlu on late Wednesday announced that both countries have drafted an action plan to address water issues.
"We have prepared a great working and action plan, regarding the water issue," Eroğlu said, after holding talks with Iraqi Water Resources Minister Jamal Adili.
He added that Turkey favored the development of its neighbor Iraq.
"We want the friendship between Iraq and Turkey to grow even stronger. We will establish a center in Baghdad to study and locate water sources," he said.
Maintaining that he held fruitful talks with Iraqi officials on the water issues, Eroğlu who is also Turkey's water affairs minister, said both countries will expand their area of cooperation, beyond water issues.
"We will hold joint works on a variety of topics. Iraq has great potential," he added.
The minister said both countries would soon discuss construction of a rail network, starting from northern Iraq to southern Basra province, and a land route as well, in the same region.
"Thus, we will connect Turkey to the Gulf countries through Iraq," he said.
In terms of access and connectivity, Turkish minister said, Iraq has hundred times more potential than that of Singapore. Iraqi Water Resources Minister Jamal Adili said the meeting on water issue went well.
He stressed that Turkey and Iraq enjoyed the best bilateral ties currently in both countries' history.
Adili said Iraq was pleased with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's "constructive" attitude towards country's water issues. He said both countries favored a solution and water talks presented a great opportunity to benefit both Turks and Iraqis.
The Tigris and Euphrates, and their tributaries, form a major river system in Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Originating in eastern Turkey, they flow through Syria and Iraq into the Persian Gulf.
Eroğlu arrived Baghdad on Wedensday to discuss water management issues with Iraqi officials including Iraqi President Barham Salih, Prime Minister Adel Abd Al-Mahdi, and Water Resources Minister Jamal Adili.
Earlier this month, Eroğlu said that Iraqi authorities want Turkey to handle several major water projects in the country.
This June, Turkey set up a working group of 51 experts to deal with Iraq's water issues.
Drought and low precipitation have been a significant problem in Iraq. Turkey depends on water from the Tigris to fill a reservoir behind its Ilısu Dam near the Iraqi border. Iraq has asked for a larger share of the river's flow amid shortages, particularly in the southern province of Basra.
In particular, the working group focuses on solving water problems in Basra to prevent diseases emanating from usage of unhealthy water. Also, improving modern irrigation infrastructure and increasing productivity will be priorities for the group. During the studies, it was revealed that 90% of Iraq's total water is used in irrigation, meaning wasting water remains a key problem. Turkey will share its own experience with Iraq on the issue.
The working group also plans to train Iraqi experts, engineers and technical personnel on waste management, wastewater treatment and hydrology as soon as possible.
Former Forestry and Water Affairs Minister Eroğlu was appointed as special envoy to Iraq by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the beginning of this year to resolve water-sharing issues between the two countries.
During his meeting with Iraqi President Barham Salih in January, Erdoğan stressed that there are serious problems in water management in Iraq, adding that if the necessary steps are taken, the problem might be solved in a couple of years as this year Iraq received high precipitation.
"We do not want the water issue to remain a problem between the countries," Salih said during the meeting and added that they consider Erdoğan's move to appoint a special envoy as significant for the resolution of the problem.
Also, in an exclusive interview with Daily Sabah in February, Iraqi Ambassador to Ankara Hussain Mahmood Alkhateeb said, "We are really happy with the decision of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as he appointed a personal representative to go to Iraq with a team of experts to discuss the water issue and to help Iraq overcome the challenges it faces, especially in the dry season."
He stressed that the water problem in Iraq is one of the most important issues between the two countries.
In April, President Erdoğan also underlined that the two countries should work together on water management to prevent a water crisis in the region.
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