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Summary: Turkey on the Course to a "Water-Superpower”

Heinz Brill

For millennia water has been a limited good in the Middle East, and the prediction that the next war in the Middle East will not be fought for crude oil but for water is not entirely unrealistic. The focus of these considerations is the "water policy” of Turkey, which has been looking for a new role in international relationships since the end of the East-West conflict.

The Turkish dam project GAP (Great Anatolian Project) on the rivers Euphrates and Tigris is one of the greatest hydraulic engineering projects of the world and at the same time has been the most spacious development project in Turkey’s history. With its help the building up of modern agricultural production, the use of water power capacity, the industrial development of South-East Anatolia, and the stimulation of tourism are to be achieved.

Turkey controls almost all the water of the river Euphrates and more than 50% of the Tigris’ water and thus also the lifelines of Iraq and Syria. Both countries depend more or less on Turkey’s good will, even if a permanent conference of three supervises the fair distribution of the water resources. The varying interests of the three neighbours on Euphrates and Tigris have not only water-managing, or technical, but first of all historical or political reasons. The Kurd problem is a classic example how strategic interests instrumentalise the water conflict.

Apart from the GAP there are a lot of other projects such as Özal’s "Peace Water Pipeline” from South Turkey to Mecca, the Manavgat-Project using super tankers for shipping drinking water to Israel, and the deep see pipeline-project from Anatolia to the Northern Cyprus. Turkey, however, will not be able to export unlimited amounts of water, because already today Istanbul and its surrounding areas are suffering from water shortage.

If Turkey succeeds in converting water as a raw material into operational politics, there will be nothing to stop its ascent to a leading regional power in the Middle East. At the moment, however, the Kurd problem must be satisfactorily solved, and the relationships with Syria and Iraq improved.

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Eigentümer und Herausgeber: Bundesministerium für Landesverteidigung | Roßauer Lände 1, 1090 Wien
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