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Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 21:39 GMT 22:39 UK
Turkey and Israel seal water deal
Turkey's Manavgat river
Some Israelis are suspicious of depending on Turkey

Turkey and Israel have reached a deal under which Ankara will sell the Israelis 50 million cubic metres of water annually for the next two decades.

The countries had been discussing the issue for several years as part of efforts to alleviate Israel's serious water shortage.

It means Israel may be less dependent on water from disputed sources.

However, despite the nations' strong ties, some Israelis would prefer to desalinate more sea water rather than depend on Turkey, even if only for a small proportion of its water.

Strong relationship

Water is a scarce and precious commodity in the Middle East and is an underlying factor in tensions between Israel, Syria, Jordan and the Palestinians.

Palestinian boy with water bucket
Water shortages are a key cause of tension in the Middle East

Despite Turkish criticism of Israel's military actions in the West Bank and Gaza, Ankara remains Israel's best friend in the Islamic world.

Trade between the two countries exceeded $1bn last year.

Israel has lucrative deals to modernise Turkey's warplanes and tanks.

Many Israelis take holidays in Turkey. It is a friendship that seems to work for both sides.

Election concerns

Turkey has gained influence in Washington thanks to its close relationship with Israel.

The pro-Israeli lobby in the US recently helped to campaign for increased international financial aid to economically struggling Turkey.

Even the current political turmoil in Turkey may not worry Israel too much.

If the next election was won by the Justice and Development Party, commonly described as Islamist although its leaders reject the label, Israel would be hoping the Turkish military would ease it out of power, as it did last time a pro-Islamic party came to government.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Matt Prodger
"Turkey is Israel's closest ally in the Middle East"
See also:

29 May 02 | Middle East
11 Jan 02 | Europe
28 Mar 00 | Europe
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