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Water Conference Stalls Over Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

April 14, 2010

A Mediterranean Union conference designed to establish a strategy for managing fresh water in the region failed due to wording used in reference to Palestinian territories, according to Tuesday media reports.

According to an April 13 AFP article, which cites French secretary of state for European affairs Pierre Lellouche as a source, “a reference to ‘occupied territories’ in a proposed draft text prevented the approval of a final accord even though delegates were in agreement on 99-percent of the technical issues related to water management”¦ Israel disagreed with this wording while Arab nations opposed to the alternative formulation of ‘territories under occupation’ proposed by European participants.”

As a result, the 43 nations that met at the 4th Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on Water in Barcelona were unable to reach an agreement to ensure access to fresh water now and in the future.

However, according to reporter Pierre Ausseill of the news agency, the issue isn’t all about semantics.

“Water management is a major source of tension between Israelis and Palestinians,” Ausseill says. “Israel largely controls joint water resources and supplies most of the water consumed in the West Bank”¦ International organizations say Israel’s water supplies fall short of Palestinian needs, but also that the Palestinians have failed to set up the infrastructure and institutions needed in the water sector.”

Nearly 300 million people in the Mediterranean could find themselves without water in the next 15 years, due largely to the effects of climate change, the United Nations claims. Currently, 180 million individuals in the area lack drinkable water, and a third of those face chronic shortages.

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