News ID: 4021234 -
Turkish ambassador:

Turkey's sovereign right on water use 'not a shareable commodity'

TEHRAN, Jul. 06 (MNA) – Turkish Ambassador to Iran Reza Hakan Tekin claimed that Turkey's dams on the Tigris and the Euphrates has no negative impact on the environment of the downstream countries.

In a letter signed by more than a hundred thousand people addressing UN secretary-general, Iranian environmental activists have voiced their protests to Turkey’s numerous dam building projects on Tigris and Euphrates which have caused many sand and dust pollution in Iraq, Syria and Iran. The activists voiced concerns that Turkey does not respect the water rights of the downstream, and has caused dryness of ecosystems in the countries of Iraq and Syria with numerous damages on the Tigris and the Euphrates.

In an exclusive interview with Mehr News correspondent on the sidelines on the International Conference on Sand and Dust Storms that kicked off on Monday in Tehran, Reza Hakan Tekin said the latest data during years of scientific research in the desertified areas shows that Turkey has been "unfairly targeted for its dams and there has been a really minimal effects on the environment," and desert areas have not increased in the last 15, 20 years due to the dams in Turkey.

He also expressed Ankara is ready for the dialogue on water issues with the Islamic Republic; "We do not want any country to be targeted to any catastrophes, not especially on scientific grounds, so we are open to dialogue with Iran."

Following is the full text of his interview with Mehr News:

How would the International Conference on Combatting Sand and Dust help the cooperation on behalf of Turkish government to take actions to respect the water rights of downstream rivers and wetlands?

The conference will serve the purpose of contributing all our joint efforts to resolve the problems which we all face in the region. Now the dams and the related projects that are being built in Turkey or already been built in Turkey has been targeted by some circles, including in Iran, as one of the main reasons which we experience in Iran or in other countries, but we are against these views, because we want to approach all these problems in a scientific way and our data shows that the dams built in Turkey on Tigris and Euphrates has no negative effect on environment in the downstream countries, in Iraq and Syria. To the country, these dams have regulated water so in the arid periods when there was no rain in the past there was no water coming to these countries so they were having draughts and it was negatively effecting the environment. But after the dams, we have the instruments to regulate water, we can give water even in dry seasons, we can give enough water to the downstream countries, so that they can use it for their own needs and also from another perspective, when there was extreme rainy periods, there were floods which also negatively affects the environment, so with the dams we can control the floods, so this is one thing; another thing when you look at the dust storms, the main source comes from already desert areas, not desertified areas, so when we look at last 15, 20 years of scientific data in the desertified areas, Turkey is being unfairly targeted for its dams and there has been a really minimal effects on the environment, so the desert areas have not increased in the last 15, 20 years due to the dams in Turkey.

On the other hand, when you look at the other projects inside Iraq, especially, during the Saddam’s period, they dried the marshes and many parts of the country which resulted in a big environmental catastrophe, which are one the primary reasons of the dust coming to Iran. Even in Iran, you look at the Tigris River, only 40% of the Tigris sources from turkey, 40% from Iraq and 10% from Iran. Iran has heavily constructed dams on Tigris water, I mean in Iran-Iraq border. So in the last 30 years, 600 dams were built by Iran and this is cutting the water from going to the wetlands of Iran. It is easy to criticize one country, but you should look at to your own policies too. We do not want any country to be targeted to any catastrophes, not especially on scientific grounds, so we are open to dialogue with Iran.

If with any chance, some independent organizations specify some measures of water rights for downstream rivers. Does Turkish government respect that water rights determined by international organizations?

You cannot give up your own sovereign rights. This is not a commodity to share with international organizations. What we have been doing, even when we are facing water shortage problems, we never cut water to neither in Tigris nor in Euphrates. So water is being given. Unfortunately Iraq and Syria are going through a very difficult period during the last decade. They are challenging with conflicts and instability, so we cannot get involved in joined projects with them. This conflict has further exacerbated the situation.

But many things effects the use of water and we are ready to contribute because water is very precious as one speaker today said now a bottle of water is more expensive than oil and some people say water is our right and you have to give us water, then some other people may say that water is more expensive than oil and why don’t we share the oil. So it has the same logic. We should not look to the problem with that approach, we should look with common interests, which is fine and not overlook our own mistakes and continue them in using our water. Iran has diverted a lot of water from Ahwaz to Isfahan for industrial purposes and that has dried up Ahwaz and this is the fact.

Reza Hakan Tekin was graduated from Ankara University, Faculty of Political Sciences, Department of International Relations in 1989 and joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey in December 1990. Tekin served at the Turkish Embassies in Abu Dhabi/United Arab Emirates, Sofia/Bulgaria, attended the NATO Defense College Senior Course in Rome and worked at the Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in New York. He also served as Consul General in Los Angeles between 2007-2011. He was announced ambassador of Turkey to the Islamic Republic of Iran on 15 October 2014.

Interview by: Lachin Rezaian and Masoud Borbor