Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pledged Tuesday to step up the flow of water along the Tigris River to drought-stricken Iraq for one month, Agence France-Presse reported.
Baghdad accuses Ankara of withholding water in dams that choke the Tigris and Euphrates rivers near their point of origin in Turkey.
The issue has gained added urgency as the entire region is gripped by a years-long drought that has emptied water reservoirs and threatened food security for millions of people.
Erdoğan told Iraq’s visiting Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani that he was aware of the “urgent need for water” in Turkey’s war-scarred neighbor.
Official Iraqi statistics show the level of the Tigris entering the country last year dropping to just 35 percent of its average over the past century.
“For one month, we have taken the decision to increase the volume of water flowing along the Tigris River,” Erdoğan told a joint media appearance with Sudani.
“The issue of water will hopefully be resolved,” Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan did not mention Turkey’s dam building projects or explain how he intended to step up the water flows.
The Turkish leader also failed to specify why the decision was only taken for one month.
But Erdoğan’s comments received a warm welcome from the Iraqi premier during his first official visit to Turkey since assuming office last October.
“I want to express my gratitude and thanks to the president from the Iraqi people,” Sudani said.
Turkey’s relations with its neighbor have also been complicated by the presence of militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — recognised as a terror organization by Ankara and its Western allies — in the mountainous northern Iraq.
Erdoğan repeated his demand for Iraq to recognise the PKK as a terror group.
Sudani said only that Iraq recognised Turkey’s security concerns.
“We won’t allow Iraq to be used as a launching pad for attacks on Turkey,” he said.
Turkey has dozens of military facilities in northern Iraq for use in its war against the PKK.
The PKK’s decades-long fight for an independent Kurdish state has claimed tens of thousands of lives in Turkey since 1984.