Berlin steps in to help resolve Central Asian water disputes

German Minister of Foreign Affairs Guido Westerwelle
Germany has offered to help Central Asian countries resolve their disputes over water supplies in the region and has offered assistance with investment in solar and wind energy in order to help conserve water.

“Regional cooperation and understanding the importance of natural resources are grounds for peace and for the wealth of Europe,” Guido Westerwelle, Germany’s Foreign Minister, said on 7-8 March at the Berlin Conference Water Diplomacy for Central Asia. The conference ended with the signing of the Berlin Declaration.

Uzbekistan was represented at the Water Diplomacy conference by Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Vladimir Norov. His counterparts from Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan also attended. Turkmenistan was represented by its Ambassador in Germany, as was Afghanistan, the latter attending as an observer.

The European Union Special Representative for Central Asia, Pierre Morel, attended the conference as an envoy of major donor organisations such as the World Bank and USAID.

The central theme of the conference was regional cooperation as a way of resolving water problems in Central Asia. “We are convinced that this will become the basis for long-term stability and economic prosperity,” Westerwelle said of water cooperation between the countries.

He stressed that since water is a strategic resource, moving across borders, its utilisation was an issue that compels the countries to negotiate effectively with one another.

The German Foreign Minister that Germany is fully prepared to assist Central Asian countries with investment in solar and wind power. ‘The German economy has knowledge in these fields,” Westerwelle said, “and is keen to engage further with Central Asia.” He also talked about the consequences of climate change, adding that his country wants to support the region in its efforts to tackle these issues in the future.

Central Asian countries have still not reached a conclusive agreement on the utilisation of shared water resources, which is exacerbating tensions in their political relations with one other. This adds to the importance of resolving water issues in order to ensure long-term stability in the region.

Westerwelle welcomed the signing of the Berlin Declaration as an important political step forward and as a central pillar of regional cooperation in Central Asia.
Uzbekistan' Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Norov

Through the declaration, the countries have signalled their commitment the drafting of a water management agreement which will be acceptable to all parties and which takes into account the interests of all countries in the region.

The participants at the conference jointly agreed to support current projects such as the expansion of the monitoring system in mountainous areas of Central Asia.

Regional cooperation and understanding the importance of natural resources are grounds for peace and for the wealth of Europe

Guido Westerwelle

In addition, countries expressed their support for the creation of an integrated body to manage water resources in river basis to augment existing institutional frameworks and information-sharing.

Germany’s Federal Foreign Minister hosted the first Central Asian strategic conference on water in April 2008. Since then 15 million Euros have been spent on political consultation and relevant institution building in the region. This week’s conference in Berlin, it is hoped, opens a new chapter in ‘water diplomacy’ in the region.

Uznews.net