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Top Afghan, Iranian diplomats discuss water dispute

May 18, 2023 at 2:32 pm

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian gives a news conference in Tehran, Iran on March 19, 2023 [Iranian Foreign Ministry/Anadolu Agency]

The top diplomats of Iran and Afghanistan, on Thursday, discussed over the phone the long-running water dispute, according to the Afghan Foreign Ministry, Anadolu News Agency reports.

During the conversation between the Taliban administration’s acting Foreign Minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, and his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amirabdollahian, discussed various issues, the Ministry said.

“During this phone call, the foreign ministers of the two countries discussed and exchanged views on issues of interest between the two countries and on the expansion of cooperation in various fields, especially trade, electric energy, railways,” Hafiz Zia Ahmad, the deputy spokesman of the Afghan Foreign Ministry, tweeted.

Ahmad added that Muttaqi described the problems of water scarcity and a decrease in rainfall in the western regions of the country, stressing his country’s official position under the existing bilateral agreement.

Meanwhile, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said Amirabdollahian urged his Afghan counterpart to release the water and facilitate a visit by a joint technical team to the Kajaki Dam in southern Afghanistan.

READ: Iran ups pressure on Taliban to resolve long-running water dispute

“He emphasised the strict & complete implementation of the clauses envisioned in the 1351 (1973) treaty regarding Helmand, including the possibility of a joint technical committee between the 2 countries visiting the water situation on the Afghan side & called it very important for Iran,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry tweeted.

The latest development came after Iranian lawmakers called on the government of President Ebrahim Raisi to take up the matter with the Taliban administration in Kabul.

The water dispute between the two countries is centred around the Hirmand River, also known as the Helmand River, which originates in the Hindu Kush Mountains near Kabul and streams into Iran’s Hamoun wetlands in the Sistan-Baluchestan province, after flowing 700 miles.

Iran has, over the years, accused Afghanistan of restricting the flow of water from the river by constructing dams on it, a charge that Afghan authorities have denied.

According to a 1973 water-sharing pact between Tehran and Kabul, Afghanistan was required to allow an average of 820 million cubic meters of water per annum to Iran.

However, Iranian authorities said only 27 million cubic meters of water reached Iran last year, compared to the 820 million cubic meters Iran is entitled to under the water-sharing treaty.

Afghanistan: Taliban reaches agreement with Iran over Helmand River rights