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Water woes causing friction within north ‘coalition government’ 

A view of a reservoir in Myrtoy that receives fresh water from Turkey via the water pipeline

THE management of water from Turkey has become a cause of friction between the two parties that form the ‘coalition government’ in the north as reports of imminent walkouts abound.

The arrival last year of the long-awaited water from Turkey through underwater pipelines has been nothing but trouble so far as it initially sparked disagreements between Turkey and the regime. Now the rows have become internal.

The bone of contention was the issue as to who was going to manage water distribution. Under the agreements concluded between Turkey and the breakaway regime, management of the fresh water would be undertaken by a private company qualified in running build-operate-transfer models.

The administration in the north however, later challenged these conditions and asked for the management rights of the project to be given to the existing municipalities, who want to not only to manage the pipeline but to charge the water bills. To get around the private-sector clause, a number of municipalities set up a private company called BESKI but Turkish officials argued that the municipalities lacked the expertise for the job.

The delay in signing the water agreement has also delayed the annual financial aid from Turkey as the economic protocol for 2016-2018, with which the water agreement is linked.

Last week, a four-member delegation from the north travelled to Turkey to discuss the issue again, and according to the Turkish Cypriot media, the agreement brought from Ankara provides for the distribution by a private company or companies, under the supervision of the regime. The proceeds will go to this company or companies.

The terms of the initial deal, which caused the ‘water crisis’ as it is called in the north,  caused friction not only between the two parties of the ‘coalition government’,  the Republican Turkish Party (CTP) and the National Unity Party (UBP), but also between CTP members themselves.

This stems from one provision, according to which the company that will distribute the water will also have control over the north’s boreholes thus creating a water monopoly.

Initially the ‘cabinet’ decided that they should agree to the deal, but the majority of the CTP, including leader Mehmet Ali Talat, expressed reservations.

The disagreement has reached the point where the UBP gave an ultimatum to CTP members to sign the agreement, or else it would walk out, thus dissolving the ‘coalition’.

Talat was quoted by Kibris on Wednesday as saying that his party and the “government” were continuously working towards developing formulas which would secure the administration and operation of the water in the most correct and effective manner.

The breakaway regime’s ‘prime- minister’ Omer Kalyoncu announced on Wednesday he was to travel to Turkey in the coming days to discuss the issue again but this was deemed to be in vain by circles in the north because  Turkey had declared the case closed.

Meanwhile, the head of the Democratic Party – National Forces (DP-UG) Serdar Denktash, was reported in Turkish Cypriot media as saying that the “CTP-UBP “government” has ended”. Denktash reportedly said his party would look positively on a ‘coalition’ with the UBP and that they would gladly sign the water agreement and the financial protocol.

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