Turkey agrees to release more water to ease Iraqi shortages

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ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - President Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to increase releases of water from a dam in southeastern Turkey to neighboring Iraq, which is struggling with a water crisis, the speaker of the Iraqi parliament said on Wednesday.

Turkey is holding back water on the Tigris river to fill a reservoir behind its Ilisu dam, a step that has alarmed Iraq and caused shortages particularly in the southern province of Basra.

Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, who met Erdogan in Turkey on Tuesday, said the president had agreed to an Iraqi request for more supplies. This was “in order to guarantee water reaches all of Iraq’s provinces, especially Basra”, Halbousi said in a statement.

Turkey temporarily stopped filling the reservoir in June but agreed with Iraq to resume doing so in July. Around 70 percent of Iraq’s water supplies flow from neighboring countries, especially in the Tigris and Euphrates which run through Turkey.

Iraq’s water shortages have led it to take measures such as bans on rice planting, and driven farmers to leave their land. Basra province has seen months of street protests over the lack of clean drinking water.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is due in Baghdad on Thursday.

Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; editing by John Stonestreet and David Stamp