Syrian irrigation minister to visit Turkey, tour controversial dam area
Syrian Irrigation Minister Taha Al-Atrash will arrive in Ankara Tuesday, August 21, for a six-day visit aimed at smoothing over long-standing disputes over water-sharing and other issues.
Atrash will meet with Turkish State Minister Mustafa Yilmaz, in charge of a massive hydraulic project in southeast Turkey, Energy Minister Zeki Cakan and other officials of water affairs, a statement from Yilmaz's office said.
Atrash is also due to visit the giant Ataturk Dam near the southeastern city of Sanliurfa, one of the several Turkey has built on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, much to the anger of drought-stricken Syria and Iraq.
Damascus and Baghdad accuse Ankara of monopolizing the waters of the two rivers, which originate in Turkey. Turkey pledged in 1987 to supply Syria with 500 cubic meters of water per second from the Euphrates, but has frequently breached the deal either as a means of exerting political pressure on Damascus or due to drought. A Turkish plan to sell water to Israel from the Manavgat river in its Mediterranean region has also angered Arab countries.
Atrash's visit is the latest in a series of recent bilateral moves to build confidence and boost cooperation between the two countries, which came to the brink of war in 1998 when Turkey threatened military action if Syria continued to shelter Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan and his militants.
Tension eased in October 1998 when Ocalan left Damascus, his longtime safe haven, and Syria signed a security cooperation accord with Ankara. ― (AFP, Ankara)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)