Iraqi parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul on Wednesday. Photo: Turkish presidency
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraq’s parliament speaker secured a promise from Ankara that Turkey would release a greater share of cross-boundary rivers to its southern neighbour.
Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on Wednesday.
"Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accepted the request to increase water releases to ensure water arriving to all Iraq provinces, especially Basra, and Turkey committing to water shares and assisting Iraq in this matter,” Halbousi tweeted after his meeting.
Basra is suffering under a water crisis. Thousands were made ill from contaminated water this summer. The province’s crumbling public infrastructure and historically low levels in the Tigris River were contributing factors.
People in Basra took to the streets in deadly protests of the situation and government corruption.
Iraq’s water crisis also extends beyond Basra. This summer, the agriculture ministry banned water-intensive crops because of shortages.
Turkey is in the final stages of constructing a massive dam on the Tigris River. Earlier this year, Ankara agreed to delay filling the dam by a few months when levels in the Tigris dropped dramatically in Iraq.
Iraq gets the majority of its water from the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, both of which originate in Turkey.
Halbousi discussed the water crisis and its repercussions with Erdogan, according to a statement from the parliament.
The two also talked about ties between the nations with Erdogan expressing support for a strong Iraqi government that will unite the country.
Halbousi encouraged Turkey to actively participate in rebuilding Iraq, calling on Turkish companies to take advantage of opportunities in Iraq.
Erdogan’s office issued a statement confirming they met, but without providing details of what was discussed.