Iran warns Afghan Taliban not to violate water rights on Helmand River

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s president warned Afghan Taliban leaders Thursday not to violate the Iranian people’s water rights to their shared Helmand River, state news agency IRNA reported.

President Ebrahim Raisi said his government is determined to protect Iran’s water rights.

“We will not allow the rights of our people to be violated,” he said and warned the Taliban to take his words seriously, stressing the importance of the Helmand River, which flows from Afghanistan to Iran.

Raisi was speaking in the Pakistani border town on Thursday, his first official visit to the neighboring country in 10 years, to inaugurate the first of six markets along the Iran-Pakistan border.

He also urged the Afghan Taliban to allow Iranian hydrologists to check the water level of the river, which originates from Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountain range.

The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021 after the United States and NATO withdrew from the country after a two-decade war.

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Iranian officials have always emphasized the importance of implementing the 1973 Helmand River Treaty between Iran and Afghanistan, which provides for shared water resources.

Drought has been a problem in Iran for nearly 30 years, but has gotten worse in the past decade, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. The Iranian Meteorological Organization states that about 97% of the country is now experiencing some degree of drought.

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