Iran Urges Taliban to Allow Expert Visits to Border Dam Amid Water Dispute

Iran Urges Taliban to Allow Expert Visits to Border Dam Amid Water Dispute

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Iran's Foreign Minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, reiterated Tehran's call for the Taliban government in Afghanistan to permit expert visits to a dam on the border river of Hirmand, also known as Helmand, instead of relying on political statements.

Amirabdollahian made the remarks during a visit to Sistan and Baluchestan Province on Thursday, following the Taliban's claim that the Hirmand River lacks sufficient water to be shared with Iran.

The Iranian foreign minister expressed frustration over the Taliban government's refusal to allow Iranian experts to inspect the dam, despite repeated appeals from Iran.

The Helmand River, Afghanistan's longest watercourse, originates in the Hindu Kush Mountains west of Kabul and flows in a southwest arc until it reaches the Hamoun wetlands in Iran's Sistan and Baluchestan Province.

Amirabdollahian stressed the importance of technical and objective inspections by experts to determine the availability of water behind the dam, emphasizing that political statements alone are insufficient.

He proposed a joint visit by a technical delegation from Iran's Ministry of Energy and their Afghan counterparts to assess the water situation, release water, and ascertain whether it reaches the Sistan region. Amirabdollahian emphasized that the fulfillment of Sistan's water rights is a significant concern for Iran, as it is a natural right under the existing treaty.

The Taliban government, however, dismissed the repeated demands for Iran's water share as detrimental.

Earlier on Thursday, Iran's President, Ebrahim Raisi, issued a strong warning to the Afghan government, urging them to respect the rights of the people in Iran's Sistan and Baluchestan province.

The President underscored that the right of Sistan and Baluchestan's residents to Hirmand water has been guaranteed by previous agreements and is not tied to a specific timeframe.

Afghanistan has attributed the reduced river volumes to climatic factors, but Raisi stated that if Iranian experts confirm the water shortage, Iran will accept the situation; otherwise, it will not allow the violation of its people's rights. He emphasized that Afghan authorities should take his words seriously and avoid future complaints.

The longstanding water dispute between Iran and Afghanistan has hindered the realization of their substantial trade potential. Central to the disagreement is the Hilmand River, which originates near Kabul and traverses 700 miles (1,126 kilometers) before reaching the Hamoun wetlands in Iran's Sistan and Baluchestan province.

The two countries signed a water-sharing agreement for the Hilmand River in 1973, requiring Afghanistan to deliver an average of 820 million cubic meters of water annually to Iran.

Iran has repeatedly criticized Afghanistan for failing to uphold the agreement in both letter and spirit. The construction of numerous hydroelectric projects along the river, including the Kamal Khan Dam in Nimrouz province and the Kajaki Dam 100 miles (160 km) northwest of Kandahar province, has further exacerbated the dispute.

In July, President Raisi called for a "serious" pursuit of Iran's water rights from the Hilmand River, instructing the foreign and energy ministers to prioritize the matter.

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