No resolution in Cyprus water crisis

No resolution in Cyprus water crisis

Ömer Bilge - NICOSIA
No resolution in Cyprus water crisis As fresh water comes closer to Turkish Cyprus from the southern Turkish province of Mersin through the Northern Cyprus Water Supply project, a crisis which had erupted over which authority would manage the pipeline has still not been resolved. 

A delegation from Turkish Cyprus visited Ankara on Feb. 8-9 in an attempt to resolve the issue and two draft deals were prepared, but the coalition partner of the Turkish Cyprus government, the Republican Turks’ Party (CTP), opposed the drafts and rejected the draft deal. 

The water crisis erupted over who would collect the bills and distribute the water. The Turkish Cypriot government had earlier wanted a company established by its municipalities to collect the water bills. The Turkish side has, however, opposed this idea and said the water was given to Turkish Cyprus free of charge, adding that the water distribution costs should be undertaken by the Turkish Cypriot side. 

A draft deal, which was recently accepted by the Turkish Cyprus government but rejected by the CTP party assembly, has envisaged the collection of the water bills by a private company that was supposed to win a planned tender. A majority of municipalities, however, did not want to transfer their rights to collect bills. 

Signs for referendum

After a series of heated discussions to resolve the crisis in January, Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Ömer Kalyoncu wrote a letter to Ankara to talk about the issue. As Turkey had given a positive response to the letter, Turkish Cypriot agriculture and finance ministers from the CTP and economy and public works ministers from the government’s minor partner, the National Unity Party (UBP), visited Ankara on Feb. 8-9.
Two drafts were prepared by the two sides and the Turkish government left the decision of which draft would be preferred to the Turkish Cypriot side. The draft deals were opened to Kalyoncu and Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Tuğrul Türkeş to sign, according to sources close to the matter. 

CTP leader Mehmet Ali Talat said no decision has been yet made over who will run the water project and a referendum may be held after a CTP meeting. On the other hand, the UBP had wanted the draft deals to be signed, according to sources. 

The Turkish side had earlier said the existing distribution network needed to be renewed for an additional 600 million Turkish Liras, according to sources close to the matter. Turkey also said the bill charging rates in the existing municipalities were fairly low, so these municipalities could not make any additional investment in the network, adding that private companies should be involved in the process in a competitive climate.