The river that binds

Countries in Eastern Nile River Basin, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, has a total of 220 million people all in dire need of water resources to generate electricity, for irrigation, fishery and other economic activities. However,

the relationship and the apportioning of the water resources of the Nile has long been lopsided in favor of one nation that is Egypt and to the lesser extent the Sudan. Egypt historically held the veto power and enjoyed the lion’s share of the benefit from this river. But, recent development especially the unilateral decision made by Ethiopia to develop a hydro electric power dam on the Nile seems to have forced the two downstream states especially Egypt to come to the discussion table, writes Yohannes Anberbir.

Early last week the Turkish government announced that it has joined the armed conflict in the region with its air force launching a heavy attack on the militant group the Islamic State which controls a large swath of landmass inside Syria and Iraq. The airstrike quickly dominated global news headlines not for its role in keeping the progress of the Islamic State (IS) at bay but for its alleged systematic attack on the strongholds of Kurdish liberation fighters. Most media reports alluded to the notion that the primary aim of the airstrikes was not to fight the IS per say but to eliminate an age-old Turkish security threat— the Kurdistan Worker Party (PKK). Since its formation in 1978 the group – which is also on the US terrorist organization list for many years now – its activities has been a real security quagmire for Turkey. However, the organization’s existence itself is highly likened to the strong support it has been provided by the Syrian government under both Hafez al-Assad and his son Bashar al-Assad. Since the beginning of its armed struggle in 1984 PKK relied on strong support of Syrian government to the extent of making Damascus its base of operation in its terrorist attack inside Turkey.

Historical accounts indicate that the Syrian government’s support for the group was solidified by one of the world’s well documented water conflicts in the Middle East—the conflict over the Euphrates-Tigris river system. This drainage system connects three countries in the regions—Turkey (source for both rivers), Syria and Iraq. Starting from the 1960s and 70s, projects on the river system Euphrates-Tigris has been source of political and military tension in the region. For instance, since both Syria and Turkey were building of dam in the 1970s, the volume of water which reaches Iraq declined dramatically which led the Iraqis to appeal to the Arab League and later resorted to a severe military standoff with the Syrians.

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