Accusations From Iran Against Türkiye's Dam Activities

Iran, which defines Türkiye’s dam activities on transboundary waters as “unacceptable”, tries to create a public opinion against Türkiye through serious accusations.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian harshly criticized Türkiye's activities and made various accusations in the special session of the Assembly held on Tuesday, May 10, following a question regarding Türkiye's dam activities on transboundary waters. The statements of the Foreign Minister, which declared Türkiye’s dam activities “unacceptable” and opposed these activities, included claims that the dam activities of Türkiye on transboundary waters cause problems for the Iranian people and the region.

In his relevant statements, Amir-Abdollahian said that he had three meetings with the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Türkiye, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, in the last eight months, and Iran has not approved Türkiye’s dam activities on transboundary waters, adding that he expressed his concerns over the construction of dams on Aras River. He stated that there is no bilateral agreement on water cooperation between Türkiye and Iran, but as an important step, forming a “Joint Water Committee” with Türkiye came to the agenda four months ago. Suggesting that Türkiye should not be allowed to use the lack of an international mechanism to change the environmental conditions in Iran and Iraq, Amir-Abdollahian claimed that both Iran and Iraq have been damaged by Türkiye’s dam projects, and Iran is in constant contact with the Iraqi government regarding the issue. Lastly, in his statements, Amir-Abdollahian said that “Turkish authorities assured that the construction of the dam takes place in mountainous regions and it is for hydroelectric generation," and mentioned that a Turkish delegation will visit Iran soon to follow the legal and political agreements on the issue.

It is noteworthy that the relevant statements of the Foreign Minister took place after his telephone conversation with his counterpart Çavuşoğlu last week, which was followed by official statements that emphasized cooperation between Iran and Türkiye on the protection of the environment and management of water resources and indicated the necessity of accelerating bilateral cooperation through forming a "Joint Water Committee" to address and solve the relevant issues. Iran’s accusations against Türkiye’s dam activities have been going on regularly for a long time. Ilısu Dam and HEPP, which became operational on May 19, 2020, found a wide place in the Iranian press, especially in November 2021, and a public opinion was tried to be created through serious accusations.

The official transboundary water policy of Türkiye is based on the principles of equitable, reasonable, and optimum use of water and not causing significant harm. Türkiye follows a policy process that focuses on cooperation with coastal states. Contrary to the allegations, Türkiye has been following a cooperation process with Iraq and developed various joint action plans. Today, Iran is one of the countries with the most dam activities in the world. Due to Iran’s dam activities on the rivers flowing into Iraq, there have been unresolved disputes between the two countries. Iran’s activities on transboundary waters, which include transferring river waters into the country and to other basins by cutting off the river waters originating from its own territory and flowing into Iraq to a large extent, have been defined as a violation of international law by Iraq. This emphasis was repeated in the statement of the Iraqi Minister of Water Resources a few days ago. Iraq has declared through some official channels that they cannot resolve the water crisis with Iran, and they will make a complaint against Iran in the International Court of Justice as the last solution because of the agreement methods that hinder diplomatic efforts.

Iran has been experiencing various negativities throughout the country in recent years due to poor water resources management and the inadequacy of its compatible policies with climate change. Especially, the water-related protests, which reached a large extend of people and ended with the harsh intervention of the government, represent an important example of this situation. The inability of the country to create a constant solution for the water issue and its appeal to a harsh discourse, accusations, and serious allegations against Türkiye’s policy on transboundary waters for the resolution of the problem will not only be unable to solve the problem but will also damage the bilateral and regional cooperation.

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