Refleksi :Masalah air di Timur Tengah misalnya antara Siria, Irak dan Turki, serta antara Israel-Palestinia-Yordania, apakah akan menjadi sumber sengketa dimasa mendatang?
http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2010/1002/re85.htm 10 - 16 June 2010 Issue No. 1002 Turkey muddies the water Syria's plan to divert the waters of the Tigris portends a long and bitter quarrel with Iraq, reports Bassel Oudat from Damascus -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Last year's severe drought in northeastern Syria dried up the Khabur River which is the lifeline in that region, causing some 500,000 Syrians to migrate to other areas inside Syria. In response, the government signed a deal with the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development to begin a project on the Tigris close to the Syrian-Turkish-Iraqi border, diverting enough water to fertilise 200,000 hectares. Baghdad was infuriated by the project and called Damascus to an "emergency meeting" to clarify the details of the "surprise plan" which would divert river water over long distances inside Syrian territories. Iraq's Water Resources Ministry stated that any diverted water will affect Iraq's already meagre water quota, which would negatively influence local agriculture and the economy. Iraqi officials also predicted that the plan will jeopardise already worsening relations between the two neighbouring states. Syria has not responded to Iraq's invitation. Informed Syrian sources asserted that the project was conceived decades ago, and not a new concept at all, as the Iraqis are claiming. In fact, it is an indicator of warming relations between Syria and Turkey, because Ankara gave Damascus the green light to go ahead and begin the project. The plan is indeed old, but was delayed because previous governments in Turkey refused to sign any agreement to share water with Syria and Iraq. With encouragement from abroad, Ankara was fooled into believing that it would be stronger and have more leverage by controlling the water flow. Syria and Iraq have fought over water resources in the past. In the 1980s, it threatened to ignite a war. Eventually the quarrel came to include Turkey, especially after Ankara began building large dams on the Euphrates and Tigris. So far, no three-way agreement has been reached because Turkey refuses to share the water with Syria and Iraq. The heart of the problem lies in differences of interpretation of Syria and Iraq on the one hand, and Turkey on the other. Turkey believes the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which originate in the Taurus Mountains in Turkey and pass through Syria and Iraq, to be "marginally cross-border rivers" because they barely pass inside the borders of Syria and Iraq. But Syria and Iraq consider them major international water bodies which should be evenly divided among everyone. When the regimes in Damascus and Baghdad fell out in the 1970-80s, this negatively affected their rights to the waters of the Euphrates and Tigris and a number of smaller rivers, because they refused to sit together or with the Turkish side. Ankara used Syrian- Iraqi tensions to exercise control over the waters of the rivers and keep a much larger share than stipulated in international water agreements for itself. It constructed massive dams on the rivers, using their waters in agricultural and industrial projects along their banks. It cut down the amount of water going to each country, and refused to recognise that the two rivers were international waterways but rather local Turkish rivers which happen to pass through Syria and Iraq on their way to the Arab shore, south of Basra in Iraq. In 1974, Turkey began the Southeastern Anatolian (GAP) project which consists of 21 dams, 17 of which on the Euphrates including Ataturk Dam and four others on the River Tigris. It also included 19 power stations and 47 water reservoirs, and a variety of other projects in the fields of agriculture, industry, transportation, irrigation and communication. Ankara earmarked $32 billion for the project and received a large part of the budget from international funding in the form of loans and grants, especially from the US, Canada, Israel and France. In 1987, Syria and Iraq tried to gain some recognition over the waters of the two rivers, but it was too late. Turkey refused to negotiate with them as one party and dealt with each side separately, taking a disproportionate amount for itself. Damascus and Baghdad could do nothing, especially in light of the fact that Ankara continued its plans to construct dams and was able to cut off the flow of the river altogether to both neighbours. In 1989, Syria and Iraq agreed to divide the quota of the Euphrates River given to them, whereby Syria's share amounted to 42 per cent and 52 per cent went to Iraq. Later, in 2000, the two sides agreed that Syria should receive a share of the Tigris water (which flows 50km inside its border), enough to irrigate almost 200,000 hectares of land. In the end, sharing the waters of the Euphrates and Tigris became a capricious matter, not relying on clear and precise agreements based on international law. Turkey's whims dictate quotas with no base in international law. In 2007, a three-way meeting failed to result in a comprehensive agreement on the issue because Turkey refused to change the status quo and wanted to make it a de facto arrangement. Syria's project to divert Tigris water, which it started publicly planning at the beginning of this year, has antagonised the Iraqis to an unexpected degree, and Baghdad's reaction came as a surprise to Damascus. This is especially true since there is a preliminary agreement regarding this issue with the previous regime in Iraq, which Iraqis today consider invalid. The Syrians counter that the agreement was concluded with a legitimate Iraqi government and not one person per se, and it is illogical to annul agreements between countries every time the regime changes. Syrian political circles feel that Iraq's reasoning is another attempt by Iraq's government to raise tensions between the two countries, and manipulate this domestically now that Iraq is about to form a new government. Relations between the two neighbours have not been at their best for almost one year, after Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki accused Syria of hosting and assisting Al-Baath Party elements who support the ousted regime in Baghdad. Iraq claims these elements are behind a number of attacks in Baghdad which have killed hundreds of Iraqis. These accusations also came as a surprise for the Syrians who said they have tried their utmost in the past few years to prevent fighters from going into Iraq by more vigilant control of the border. At the same time, Syria is home to 1.5 million Iraqi refugees and says it has cooperated with Iraqi authorities. Syrian officials believe that Iraq's objections to the Tigris project are not a result of Iraqi concerns over water but have other political goals to do with domestic Iraqi politics, power struggles among Iraqi factions, and complications in forming Iraq's new cabinet. No doubt, the quarrel between Syria and Iraq over the past decades has allowed Turkey to do as it pleases with the waters of the Euphrates and Tigris. Today, closer ties between Damascus and Ankara -- which could almost be described as a strategic alliance -- are still not enough to convince Turkey to admit that these are international rivers, and it continues to control them unilaterally. Observers believe that rising political friction between Syria and Iraq, their distraction with secondary issues over more important ones, and their lax positions towards Turkey on the water issue and other matters have not only caused tension, but resulted in immense strategic losses for both parties. They will have to look beyond this current spat and focus on the real problem -- resolving the quota issue with Turkey. [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]