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Israel and PA agree water deal

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Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) signed an agreement on Thursday to combat the decline of the Dead Sea and ensure a fresh water supply to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.

 The new deal follows the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 2013 by Jordan, Israel, and the PA, and is comprised of elements: the construction of a desalination plant in Aqaba to provide fresh water to Jordan and Israel, a 200km pipeline to deliver brine to the Dead Sea to reduce its rate of decline, and a commitment by Israel to supply additional water to Jordan and the PA.

As part of the deal Israel will sell 32 million cubic meters of water to the PA on an annual basis, and start to provide the West Bank and Gaza Strip with the water in the immediate future at a reduced rate.

US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt announced the agreement on Thursday at a press conference in Jerusalem alongside Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi and PA Water Authority head Mazen Ghuneim.

Hanegbi said that the deal would allow the launch of the “crucial” Red-Dead Project: “It will help us challenge the biggest problem the Dead Sea is facing – the evaporation of a meter a year – and it will also harness green energy.”

On the process of negotiation, he added: “When you focus on the issues, not history or background or emotions or other disturbing elements, the common denominator is bigger than what separates us.”

Ghuneim said that the terms of the agreement “will reduce the suffering of the Palestinian people,” and noted “the suffering of the people of Gaza, where more than 97 per cent of the water is not drinkable”.

The water deal marks Greenblatt’s second achievement in a week.  On Monday, a historic electricity deal was signed by Israel and the PA that provides a framework for Israel to supply power to the PA and resolves outstanding payment issues. A White House statement said the deal “sets the stage for further agreement on broader electricity cooperation,” and constitutes “important progress toward the US administration’s goal of bolstering the Palestinian economy to enhance the prospects for a just, secure, and lasting peace”.

The White House hailed Thursday’s water deal as “another indication that the parties are capable of working together to achieve mutually beneficial results”.

Greenblatt met yesterday with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, and Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem. He also took part in the first meeting of envoys of the Middle East Quartet.