2004-03-08 14:57:00
Embassy Ankara
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 001373 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/10/2014

Classified by Ambassador Eric Edelman for reasons 1.5 (b) and

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 001373


E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/10/2014

Classified by Ambassador Eric Edelman for reasons 1.5 (b) and

1. (C) SUMMARY: MFA officials say Turkey wants to begin a
dialogue with Syria and Iraq, leading to a comprehensive
water sharing/management agreement for the Tigris-Euphrates
basin, part of an effort by the Turkish government to
contribute to stability in the region. They say that in the
coming year, decisions by Turkey and Iraq on water usage
could lock in sharp increases in water demand, making any
future agreement increasingly difficult. The Foreign
Ministry wants the U.S. to play a role in this process and
has asked Washington to consider sending a delegation to
Ankara to discuss a way forward. We think this is an
important opportunity and urge Washington to consider the
Turks' offer to consult. End Summary.

2. (U) Regional Environment Officer has had a series of
meetings with officials in the Foreign Ministry and other GOT
agencies to discuss Turkey's desire to begin the process of
tri-partite cooperation on the Tigris-Euphrates basin.
Deputy Undersecretary Kilic said that the MFA wants to
explore the willingness of Syria and Iraq to discuss a single
agreement to cover water issues for the entire Tigris and
Euphrates Basin. At numerous international fora, Turkish
officials have presented the government's desire to reach an
accord. Turkey's presentation to the 48th Session of the
NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Istanbul, 15-19 November 2002,
stated "Turkey is eager to find ways of reaching a basis for
cooperation on the Tigris and Euphrates which will strengthen
regional peace and improve the quality of life of the peoples
of the three countries."

3. (C) The Chief of the Foreign Ministry's Transboundary
Water Department, Mithat Rende, said the MFA thinks that the
departure of Hussein and improving relations with Syria
present an opportunity to begin a dialogue. However, he is
concerned that time may be growing short; important decisions
are being made in Iraq that bear directly on future water use

-- increasing Iraq,s agricultural production, restoration of
the marshes, and reconstruction of Iraq,s system of dams and

4. (C) Rende explained that Turkey wants to begin a dialogue
that would lead to direct talks with Iraq and Syria. Rende
said the MFA understands that this will be a long and
sometimes difficult process. Past efforts to reach agreement
have failed, mostly because of political suspicions and
tensions. Syria and Iraq have frequently accused Ankara of
using its control of the Tigris and Euphrates headwaters as a

5. (U) Rende said the first steps in the process would need
to focus on non-controversial issues to build trust among the
parties. Turkey wants to begin the dialogue with data
sharing -- to exchange and compile accurate and comparable
data on past and projected water flows from Turkey, water
demand projections in all three countries, information on
water quality, and information on water infrastructure, such
as dams, treatment plants and irrigation systems. Comment:
Embassy believes that the data-sharing process alone could
bring real benefits, especially to Iraq, which will need
accurate water data in its reconstruction and development

6. (SBU) Turkey has developed a simple set of goals for a
comprehensive agreement.

-- Single Basin. Turkey insists that any progress toward
fruitful cooperation must be based on the principle that the
two rivers be considered a single water basin.

-- Water rights. Turkey affirms that all riparian states
have a right to the water resources of the Tigris and
Euphrates. However, this does not mean that each riparian
state has a claim to an equal share of the total water

-- Optimal Usage. The benefits of the water resources must
be shared in an equitable and efficient (optimal) manner. In
other words, with rights come responsibilities. Turkish
officials argue that any agreement will fail without
fundamental agreement on the need to make optimal use of the
water. This will require a high degree of cooperation, data
sharing and transparency to work.

7. (U) The Turks argue that they are using the most advanced
engineering and technical know-how to make optimal use of the
water Turkey takes from the Tigris and Euphrates ) this
includes optimal planning of reservoirs, careful selection of
land to be irrigated and introduction of modern, efficient
irrigation techniques. They argue that Syria and Iraq have

8. (SBU) Syria: Turkey is hopeful that Syria can become a
serious and cooperative partner, according to Rende. The
January visit of President Assad, although light on
substance, did indicate a willingness on both sides to
improve relations. Prior to Assad's visit, Turkey's
Ambassador to Damascus told Syrian journalists that recent
improvements in relations with Syria should open the door for
cooperation on water issues.

9. (U) Iraq: Rende said Hussein's regime had been the main
obstacle in Turkey's previous attempts to reach a tri-lateral
accord, and he was encouraged by Water Resources Minister
Latif Rashid's statements last fall that Iraq would like to
reach an agreement.

10. (U) Turkey thinks that it can offer real benefits to its
southern neighbors as part of an agreement. Turkey has
devoted significant resources to water projects in the Tigris
and Euphrates headwaters under the Southeast Anatolia Project
(GAP) and says it is eager to share its expertise and
experience. Turkey's GAP Administration has been working
with its sister organization in Syria, the General
Organization for Land Development (GOLD) and says it would
like to help Iraq restore its water infrastructure. Turkey's
dams already provide benefits downstream, reducing seasonal
variations, which reduces flooding risk and increases supply
reliability. Turkish officials at the State Hydraulics Works
(DSI) claim that Turkish dams are efficient (higher elevation
and deeper) and suggested that an agreement would reduce the
need for expensive and less efficient dam projects in Syria
and Iraq.

11. (C) On the other hand, lack of an agreement could lead
to problems in the future as the riparian states proceed with
agricultural and economic development projects. So far,
Turkey's Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP) has focused on dams
to exploit the hydropower potential of the Tigris and
Euphrates, which has had only a minor effect on water quality
and supply downstream. However, GAP's ambitious irrigation
blueprint and plans for economic and industrial development
will certainly raise concerns in Syria and Iraq about future
water supply and deteriorating water quality. For example,
the GAP Master Plan calls for a nearly ten-fold increase of
farm land irrigated from the Tigris and Euphrates -- from
187,000 hectares to 1.7 million hectares.

Next Steps

12. (C) While we recognize many factors and issues are at
play here, Embassy thinks that Turkey's proposal is worth
considering. Turkey's desire to play a constructive role in
Iraq's reconstruction and contribute to regional stability,
coupled with readiness in Iraq and improved relations with
Syria, offers a peculiar (and perhaps limited) opportunity.
Delay could make any future agreement increasingly difficult
as Turkey and Iraq lock in ambitious development plans that
will require much more water.

13. (C) The Turkish initiative could offer an opportunity to
achieve agreement on a long-standing, thorny issue in a
region that has been among the most tense in the world.
Moreover, it would fulfill the U.S. objective to encourage
Turkey to contribute to regional stability and the
reconstruction of Iraq. This is especially important, in our
view, for Turkey, coming after the difficult decisions
regarding Turkey's contribution to peacekeeping in Iraq and
prior to the June 2004 NATO Summit and President's visit to

14. (SBU) Ankara would be interested in views of CPA and
Embassy Damascus about Iraqi and Syrian willingness and
capability to initiate talks. We also recommend that
Washington consider the Turkish initiative, especially its
invitation for a U.S. team to visit Ankara to discuss the