Iraq asked Turkey on Saturday to increase the release of water downstream along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers to help counter ongoing droughts.
The request highlighted once again the tensions between the two countries over resource management.
Baghdad regularly complains that dams constructed in neighboring countries, Iran and Turkey, impact its river levels.
Turkey has been stressing the problems in water management in Iraq and has for years vowed commitment to its agreement with Iraq to keep the water flow. It has repeatedly stressed its readiness to extend support to Iraq on water management.
Water Minister Mehdi al-Hamdani and the Turkish Presidency’s special representative for Iraq, Veysel Eroğlu, discussed “quantities of water arriving in Iraq through the Tigris and Euphrates” from Turkey, an Iraqi statement said.
Hamdani asked Ankara via videoconference “to reexamine the amounts of water released, in order to allow Iraq to overcome the current water shortage,” it added.
Eroğlu said he would pass on the request to water authorities in Ankara to “increase the amounts of water released in the coming days, according to (Turkey's) available reserves,” according to the Iraqi statement.
Both sides agreed that an Iraqi “technical delegation” would visit Turkey and allowed to “evaluate Turkish dam reserves on site.”
Iraq’s water crisis has been in the making for nearly two decades. Outdated infrastructure and short-term policies made Baghdad vulnerable to climate change.
Turkey has been stressing the two countries should work together on water management to prevent a water crisis in the region.
Eroğlu, former minister of Forestry and Water Affairs, was appointed in 2019 as a special envoy to Iraq to resolve water-sharing issues between the two countries.
Turkey says it has been maintaining the flow it was obliged to its southern neighbor, sometimes even more.
Ankara also reiterated several times its offer to help establish a Turkey-Iraq Water Resources Research Center.
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.
The United Nations classifies Iraq “as the fifth most vulnerable country in the world” to climate change, having already witnessed record low rainfall and high temperatures in recent years.
The issue of managing water resources has raised tensions between Baghdad and Ankara.
On Tuesday, Turkey’s Ambassador to Iraq Ali Riza Güney said Iraqis were “squandering” water resources, sparking criticism in the country.
Güney called on Twitter for “immediate measures to reduce the waste” including “the modernization of irrigation systems.”
Iraq has seen three years of successive droughts and has halved cultivated agricultural areas for its 42 million inhabitants.
“Water reserves have dropped 60% compared to last year,” a government official said this Wednesday, Iraq’s INA news agency reported.