JERUSALEM -- Turkey could solve Israel's chronic water shortage by hauling enormous water-filled plastic bubbles by tugboat across the Mediterranean, Turkey's president has said.
Such a project could eventually supply Israel with up to 140 billion cubic feet of water a year, Turkish President Suleyman Demirel said after talks with Israeli President Ezer Weizman.
Israel and Turkey already have close military and economic ties, and the relationship would become even stronger should Turkey turn into Israel's major water supplier. Many Arab countries in the region, especially Syria, are watching the Israeli-Turkish ties with great concern, fearing the alliance could eventually dominate the Middle East.
After receiving only a fraction of the usual rainfall over the winter, Israeli water authorities are putting severe restrictions on farmers' ability to irrigate and appealing to citizens to save water.
With Israel and its neighbors suffering from the worst drought in decades, Weizman said Barak would go to Turkey for talks on the water issue, but no date was set for the visit.
Demirel suggested a joint project to capture the waters of the Manavgat River in southwest Turkey and ship the precious cargo to Israel. The amount could meet Israel's needs ``several times over,'' he said.
Water tankers could be used for the short 400-mile ocean hop. Another idea under consideration is filling gigantic plastic bubbles with fresh water from the river. The bubbles would float on the ocean's salt water, and tugboats could haul them to Israel.
``It's a matter of price and conditions,'' said Demirel.
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