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Turkey halts filling Ilisu Dam until July - ambassador to Iraq

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ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey has stopped filling the Ilisu dam on the Tigris River until July to help Iraq overcome water shortages, the Turkish ambassador to Iraq said on Thursday.

Turkey had started filling the Ilisu dam earlier this month, fuelling worries over Iraq’s water shortages, after delaying its planned start by three months at the request of its southern neighbour.

Turkey’s ambassador to Iraq Fatih Yildiz said on Twitter that Turkey stopped filling the dam on President Tayyip Erdogan’s orders to address Iraq’s water shortage.

“As of this moment, Tigris waters are being transferred to Iraq without touching a drop of it in Ilisu,” Yildiz said. “With the second decision to postpone, we have shown once again that we can put our neighbour’s needs ahead of our own.”

The filling will resume on July 1, he said, adding that water will still flow into Iraq in accordance with agreements between the two countries.

Around 70 percent of Iraq’s water resources flow from neighbouring countries, especially in the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. Both flow through Turkey.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he was surprised Turkey had started filling the dam and suggested it was done to win support for the government in June 24 elections.

(Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz; Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Dominic Evans)

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