U.S. Water News Online
JERUSALEM -- Israel and Turkey have suspended what was
meant to be a breakthrough deal -- shipping water in huge tankers
from Turkey to the parched Holy Land.
Both governments have concluded the deal is not feasible, but hope
to revive it in the future.
Under the 20-year agreement, signed two years ago, Turkey was to
ship 50 million cubic meters of water annually from its Manavgat
River. The deal was to alleviate Israel's chronic water shortage and
cement its relations with an important Muslim ally. Turkey was to
boost its position as a regional power.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said recently that
the agreement was put on hold because high oil prices had made it
impractical to ship the water in large tankers. Privatization of
Turkey's Manavgat water-treatment facility also contributed to the
higher costs, he said.
Regev said the two countries would continue looking at other
options, including building a water pipeline.
The decision to suspend the project was not connected to the
recent visit of Hamas leaders to Turkey, he added. "The political
relationship with Turkey is good," he said.
In Ankara, officials at the Turkish Foreign Ministry confirmed the
project is now on hold and that the idea of a pipeline would be
But experts say it could be years for a pipeline to materialize.
In addition to cost considerations, such a project would possibly
require involvement of Lebanon or Syria, Arab countries that are
hostile to Israel.
Water experts said the deal would have provided only a small
percentage of Israel's water needs. Critics have said the plan, going
back more than five years, was motivated more by politics than
"From the time of the first bids, it was clear you could not bring
water of drinking quality from Turkey at an affordable price," said
Shaul Arlosoroff, a water expert and member of the board of Mekorot,
Israel's national water carrier. "There were other reasons for Israel
to maintain connections and dialogue with Turkey. The issue of
economics was not the decisive issue," he said.
Arlosoroff said the chances of building a pipeline deal are very
low, especially now that Israel has opened a new desalination plant
in the port city of Ashkelon with a second plant in the works. Israel
also has reduced its water needs through expertise in drip irrigation
and recycling waste water for agricultural use.
"I wouldn't buy stock in the company that has to bring water from
Turkey to Israel," he said.
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