Turkey and Syria promise to honour water pact

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The Independent Online
DAMASCUS (Reuter) - Turkey and Syria promised yesterday to honour agreements on water- sharing and the activities of separatist Turkish Kurds, two issues that had strained relations between the two countries.

The Turkish Foreign Minister, Hikmet Cetin, said that his country would respect a 1987 water- sharing pact requiring Turkey to allow an average of at least 500 cubic metres a second of Euphrates water into Syria.

After talks in Damascus, the Syrian Foreign Minister, Farouq al-Shara, said a technical committee representing Turkey, Syria and Iraq would meet soon to discuss the water issue. He said his country was implementing a security agreement signed in April in which Syria pledged to curb the activities of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) which had a big base in Lebanon's Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley. The Marxist PKK launched a war against the Turkish government in 1984 for an independent state in south-east Turkey.

The dispute over water-sharing, a potentially explosive issue that is to be discussed at the US-brokered Middle East peace talks, centred on control of the waters of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers which rise in Turkey.

Syria expressed anger at comments last month by Turkey's Prime Minister, Suleyman Demirel, on the eve of the opening of Turkey's giant Ataturk Dam on the Euphrates. Mr Demirel suggested that Syria and Iraq, through which both rivers flow, had no right to question what Turkey did with the water.

Mr Cetin said Syria's Interior Minister, Mohammad Harba, would visit Turkey soon to discuss security co-operation and that the two countries agreed that a security committee would meet once every three months.

AMMAN - Western warships, enforcing a UN embargo against Baghdad, have stepped up inspection of vessels heading to Jordan's Red Sea port of Aqaba, Iraq's main sea link, officials said.

They said yesterday the stricter sea checks followed Jordan's rejection last month of a US request to station UN inspectors in Jordan to monitor what Washington calls a 'leaky' border with Iraq.

In the past 10 days, four ships have been delayed for up to three days because of new tight inspection. Jordan says it is fully observing sanctions against Iraq, once its biggest trade partner. It says it has tightened tough export rules and improved border control.