A regional water agreement that could have reduced usage was thwarted this week when Israel and the Arab League sparred over the use of the term “occupied territories” in the document.

It had been hoped that the 43 countries that attended the 4th Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on Water, which met on Tuesday in Barcelona, would approve a regional strategy for water. There was agreement on all aspects of the document except on the disputed phrase.

The Arab League insisted that the term “occupied territories” be inserted into the Union for the Mediterranean document outlining a joint strategy for guaranteeing the water resources for the whole Mediterranean basin.

National Infrastructures Ministers Uzi Landau (Israel Beiteinu) objected to the term, but would have accepted as a compromise the alternative phrasing of “territories under occupation.”

The Arab League, however, stood its ground.

Since all members of the Union for the Mediterranean needed to approve the document, the meeting ended in deadlock.

Landau accused the Arab League of hijacking an important environmental meeting by shifting the spotlight away from the issue of water and onto the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

“They want to turn every forum into an arena where they can just isolate us,” Landau told The Jerusalem Post after his return from Barcelona. “They [the League] came with a pre-prepared agenda to the meeting.”

The strategy under debate was supposed to establish the political, methodological and financial framework for introducing regional policies. It envisaged reducing the consumption of water by 2025, to levels 25 percent below those of 2005.

The conference was jointly held by the Union for the Mediterranean and the Spanish Environmental Ministry.

Ahmad Masa’deh, the secretary-general of the Union for the Mediterranean, said urgent action action was needed to guarantee water access for all Mediterranean residents.

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