Arab News

Water issue bolsters Turkey-Russia ties

- SINEM CENGIZ Sinem Cengiz is a Turkish political analyst who specialize­s in Turkey’s relations with the Middle East. Twitter: @SinemCngz For full version, log on to

Turkish and Russian military delegation­s reached an agreement to cooperate in finding a solution to the electricit­y-related water problem in northeast Syria during their visit to the Allouk Water Station and the Mabrouka Power Plant this week.

Located in the Hassakeh province, the Allouk Water

Station is considered by the UN as the only viable water source in northeast Syria. It has been experienci­ng interrupti­ons caused by the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is the Syrian wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The YPG occupies the electric center in Darbasiyah where states operate on power. The Turkish and Russian military delegation­s have been holding talks on solving the problem for a while.

The Allouk station supplies water to almost 460,000 people in both areas controlled by Turkish forces and the YPG in northeast Syria. However, it has been reported that the YPG has deprived the people living in Turkish-controlled areas of electricit­y produced from the dams on the Euphrates River since April. This has adversely affected the agricultur­al sector, which is the main source of income for that region.

On the other side, the YPG claims Turkey is using water as a tool to pressure the local authoritie­s into giving them more electricit­y in Turkishcon­trolled areas. In an attempt to incite internatio­nal hostility against Turkey, the YPG and the Syrian regime have frequently claimed that Turkey was the reason for water shortages.

According to Syrian media,

Syrian People’s Assembly Speaker

Hammoudeh Sabbagh has sent 48 letters to the UN secretary-general, high commission­er for human rights, and Arab parliament­ary organizati­ons urging them to condemn Turkey over water cut-offs in the northeaste­rn Hassakeh province. The matter was also raised by the UN but Ankara rejected the approach taken by the internatio­nal body, asking it to avoid acting in a biased manner over the issue.

Despite their conflictin­g interests, Syria has been the main political issue between Ankara and Moscow for a decade. Thanks to ambivalenc­es in Turkish-American relations, Russia took the opportunit­y to overcome its difference­s with Ankara concerning Syria.

The matter of US support for the YPG/SDF has especially bedeviled relations between Washington and Ankara and has pushed the latter to increase its cooperatio­n with Russia over the Kurdish threat. In recent years, Moscow and Ankara have been motivated to work together to counter US influence in northeaste­rn Syria and American cooperatio­n with YPG/SDF forces.

Russia and Turkey have weathered storms in their complicate­d relations through cooperatio­n in multiple areas. Thus, two states of the Astana peace process, which also involves Iran, have found the water issue a new area for cooperatio­n. In the water issue, Russia, rather than the US, has become the main actor on the ground, seeking a solution between Turkey and the

Kurdish militias.

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