World Bank officials confirm support, possibly financially, for trilateral water agreement

Deal, signed earlier this month, includes water "swap" with Jordan, will increase Israel's water sales to PA by 20 million cubic meters annually.

December 19, 2013 19:17
2 minute read.
Sunset at the kinneret

Sunset at the kinneret 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad)


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World Bank officials have thrown their support behind the trilateral water sharing agreement Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority signed last week.

They suggested that the organization may be willing to play a financial role in the plans.

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“I am pleased that the long-term engagement of the World Bank has facilitated this next step by the three governments, which will enhance water availability and facilitate the development of new water through desalination,” Inger Andersen, the World Bank vice president for the Middle East and North Africa Region, said on Wednesday. “I would like to emphasize the World Bank’s continuous engagement to help all sides make decisive and historic progress.”

On December 9, senior officials from the three governments met at the World Bank headquarters in Washington to sign a memorandum of understanding on water exchanges and sharing. A key component of the agreement is the development of an 80 million cubic meter desalination plant in Aqaba, from which Israel will be able to buy 50 to 60 percent of the water. Jordan would be able to buy an additional 50 million cubic meters of water from Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) annually – roughly double the current allocation – and Israel would allow for the direct sale of an additional 20 million cubic meters of water from the Mekorot national water company to the PA.

The understanding calls for a 200-kilometer pipeline to carry residual salt brines from the desalination process to the Dead Sea.

On the day of the signing, World Bank officials told The Jerusalem Post that media reports claiming that the institution had agreed to provide a bridge loan for the process were untrue.

“We are very happy to play the facilitator role. We have definitely not agreed to any financing for this,” Alexander McPhail, the lead water and sanitation specialist in the World Bank’s Water Practice division, said at the time.

Now, a week-and-a-half later, however, a World Bank spokesman explained that following the signing, the bank’s teams have began engaging with donors who have signaled serious interest in support the project.

In addition, once the technical studies surrounding the project have been satisfactorily completed, the World Bank Group would consider exploring financial engagement in the project, if requested, the spokesman confirmed.

“Every effort will be made to assist the three governments in moving forward, with the ultimate goal of helping to implement the project,” the bank said.

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