Turkey’s ambassador to Baghdad, Fatih Yıldız, has assured that Iraq will not suffer from water shortage because of the Ilısu Dam that Turkey is building on the Tigris River in response to the criticism coming from top Iraqi officials.
“Even if filling the reservoir of the Ilısu Dam will take nearly a year, it does not mean we will completely halt the water flow. An agreement signed on May 15 between the two countries regulates the water flow,” Yıldız told a group of reporters at the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad on June 5, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
He added that sufficient quantities of water would continue to flow to Iraq.
On June 5, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Iraq is surprised by Turkey’s decision to start holding water back through its Ilısu Dam earlier than promised, suggesting it was done to win support for the government in the upcoming elections.
Turkey has started filling the dam basin, a step that has alarmed neighboring Iraq, which is struggling with a water crisis.
“The Turkish prime minister had promised me they would start filling the dam at the end of June, not the start, so I was surprised to see they started,” Abadi told a news conference.
“I am aware that they have elections on June 24 and perhaps need to get the support of farmers,” he added, referring to Turkey’s planned general elections for president and parliament.
Turkey’s Baghdad envoy, Yıldız, however, said Ankara is cooperating.
Turkey will not take unilateral decisions without consulting its neighbors, Yıldız said, adding that the dam is built to produce electricity, not for irrigation purposes.
“We had informed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during his visit to Turkey in 2017 that the construction of the dam had been completed and we were ready to collect water behind the dam,” the ambassador said.
Yıldız dismissed the claims that filling the basin of the dam would take five years.
“Enough water will be collected at the reservoirs in a year to enable electricity generation,” he said.
Around 70 percent of Iraq’s water resources flow from neighboring countries, especially in the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, which both flow through Turkey.
The dam issue was not the only point of contention between Baghdad and Ankara this week. On June 5, Abadi demanded Turkey respect Iraq’s sovereignty in its approach to Kurdish militias.