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June 2018, No. 87


Special Report

Complete Drought in Middle East in 2025


We can use the international experience on how to save water with the help of the diplomatic apparatus.


Dr. Seyed Abbas Araqchi, Deputy Foreign Minister

Water scarcity and its gradual reduction due to increased consumption have led water to play a more fundamental role in shaping the socio-political relations of nations and human societies, especially in arid regions of the world.

Addressing the opening ceremony of the National Conference on Water Diplomacy and Opportunities for Hydropolitics in West Asia, Dr. Seyed Abbas Araqchi, Deputy Foreign Minister and the person in charge of water diplomacy emphasized: “Before focusing on water diplomacy, we must determine our own internal share in connection with the water issue and use the domestic capabilities and facilities appropriately to solve this problem.”

He added: “Today, water diplomacy has gone a higher scope and is called diplomacy of cross-border waters. The question is how to use common water resources with our neighbors in a way that would not lead to conflict and confrontation.”

The senior diplomat who was a leading member of the Iranian delegation at the nuclear talks with the big powers, noted: “As you know, water has the capacity to instigate conflict between two villages, two cities, or two countries, but history shows that the issue of water has become a matter for cooperation between countries rather than an arena of conflict.”

Araqchi added, “Negotiations on surface waters and reaching an agreement on the distribution of water resources are not easy. For example, the Helmand Treaty, signed in the 1950s between Iran and Afghanistan, is a product of decades of negotiations.”

Explaining the prospect of water conflicts in the Middle East in the near future, he said, “The West Asia region is rapidly moving toward a complete drought. There are currently only nine countries in the region, including Iran, that have not faced a complete drought. But by 2025, all countries in the region, including Iran, will be in a state of complete drought.”

He said, “In such a situation, all countries are seeking to make full use of their water resources and do not allow water to flow out of their country. Our neighbors will adopt this policy, and we will as well. The country’s policy is to stop the flow of water from leaving the country. Of course, this is not so that our neighbors become thirsty, but as I said, this needs to be managed.”

Noting that diplomacy of cross-border waters is a major part of water diplomacy, he said: “Water diplomacy has a number of other aspects, one of which is the issue of virtual waters. For example, we should see what kind of product we should produce that consumes less water. In line with this policy, there should be a major revision in import/export of goods in the country. We need to move towards smart trade in this field and produce goods that require less water in production.”

He added: “Perhaps in this context, we need to revise the discussion of strategic goods in the country. If we accept that water is a strategic commodity, we should see production of what goods need less water and what commodities need more water to manufacture, and there is also the issue of food sovereignty.”

Araqchi continued: “The Netherlands is one of the most water rich countries, but we export a lot of water to the country each year.” This is done in the form of exports of goods whose production requires a lot of water.”

He also discussed the issue of cross-border cultivation and said: “We reached agreement with 11 countries to have cross-border cultivation in this context, and within this framework, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was able to get several hectares of land. But unfortunately, this was not achieved due to lack of internal coordination and the problems involved in this connection.”

He also referred to the issue of transfer of water from abroad to Iran and said: “For example, it is said that we can transfer water from Tajikistan to Iran, or regarding Lake Urmia some suggest that water be transferred from Van Lake of Turkey. These are debates that are being raised, but it is not clear to what extent they can be realized.”

The top diplomat stressed, “We can use the international experience on how to save water with the help of the diplomatic apparatus. For example, the Tokyo Municipality has made good progress in preventing water waste and even has announced its willingness to cooperate with Tehran Municipality in this regard. However, such cooperation has a high financial cost.”

Araqchi said transfer of international experience in the field of water saving and international cooperation on optimal water consumption is an important dimension in the debate on water diplomacy.

“We need to use the international credits that are available in this regard. For example, in order to deal with global warming, a huge budget has been allocated in the international arena, but we have not been able to attract these funds in our projects.”

Also addressing the event, the mayor of Tehran said: “We provide the people with little information partly because of our populist spirit as we are reluctant to reflect negative points.”

 

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