ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkey has decided to halt the filling of the Ilisu Dam following worries by Iraqis of water shortages, the country’s ambassador to Baghdad announced on Thursday.
“As of this moment, Tigris waters are being transferred to Iraq without touching a drop of it in Ilisu,” Turkey’s ambassador to Iraq Fatih Yildiz said on Twitter.
He added that the decision to stop filling the dam came after orders from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “to address Iraq’s worries.”
Turkey had previously delayed plans to fill the Ilisu by three months at the request of Iraq and will resume the project on July 1, according to Yildiz.
“With the second decision to postpone, we have shown once again that we can put our neighbor’s needs ahead of our own,” he added.
Ankara began filling a reservoir behind the dam last week, causing a shortage in water supplies and panic among people in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.
The effects of the Turkish dam filling caused a significant reduction of water levels in the Tigris River in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, Mosul, and in the marshlands of southern Iraq, raising fears of drought which would affect the country’s livestock and agriculture.
Yildiz and Iraq’s water minister said the two countries have agreed that when the Ilisu project resumes in July, it will still allow a sufficient amount of water to flow into Iraq, Reuters reports.
“We asked them to postpone until the end of June. Turkey agreed, and we were very happy,” Iraq’s Minister of Water Resources Hassan al-Janabi said during a news conference in Baghdad.
“The way the dam gets filled is very important,” he added, “and we found a filling method that guarantees Iraq’s interests.”
Approximately 70 percent of Iraq’s water resources stream from neighboring countries, especially the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers which both run through Turkey.