The Turkish Defence Ministry has formally refuted allegations that it has been obstructing and cutting water supplies to areas in northern Syria.
This was done, says Turkey, by the Kurdish militias and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who control the areas in question.
In a statement late last week, ministry spokesman Olcay Denizer said that Ankara had previously repaired the Allouk water plant in Syria’s Hasaka province after it had “been rendered unusable by the PKK/YPG terrorist organisation” following Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring in October last year.
The repairs allowed water to be “supplied to Hasaka and its rural areas in November 2019.”
Despite these repairs, however, the facilities require a sufficient supply of electricity from the areas held by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the SDF.
This was obstructed, claims Turkey, by these militias’ “deliberate disconnection and insufficient transmission of electricity” from the Tishreen power plant.
“The frequently-cut and already insufficient electricity supply has prevented the water wells in the Allouk water plant… from working at full capacity,” Denizer stated. This caused severe water problems in the region and “great distress” for its people.
Turkey’s clarification follows months of accusations from the Kurdish militias and others in the international community that Turkish forces weaponised the water supplies that they control by withholding them from the population in northern and north-east Syria.
The issue of water and electricity supplies in the region has long been contentious, with Turkish and Russian forces agreeing in December last year to trade the two essential services in order to keep up an adequate supply in the area.
Under that agreement, Turkey and the opposition forces it supports were to provide water to the SDF-controlled areas of Hasakah and Al-Darbasiyah, in exchange for Russia and the Kurdish militias providing electricity to the town of Tal Abyad and its surrounding areas.
This was only partially supplied, however, due to the continued coordination between Turkish and Russian forces while the Kurdish militias reportedly did not fulfil their part of the deal. This meant, explained Denizer, that as of 1 April only 10 megawatts of the region’s requirement of 70 megawatts of electricity were supplied.