Photo: NYT

Iran warns the Taliban of accountability over Helmand River water rights

In a press conference on Friday, Iran’s ambassador to Kabul, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, warned the Taliban that they would be held accountable if they fail to provide Iran’s water rights from the Helmand River.

According to the IRNA news agency, Ambassador Qomi highlighted the importance of constructive interaction with neighboring countries for the Taliban to establish a stable government in Afghanistan.

He stated, “if it is proven that the Taliban possess water reserves in the dam but deny Iran’s water rights, they should be held responsible for their actions.” Qomi further affirmed that in that case, “Iran would then know for sure, and take measures accordingly.”

While Qomi did not outline specific actions that Iran might take, the news agency quoted him saying “In Afghanistan today, we are not only facing the Taliban; the issue in this country is complicated.” However, he dismissed economic sanctions against Afghanistan as a solution.

Recent discussions surrounding Iran’s water rights from the Helmand River have intensified, prompting Iranian authorities to issue warnings to the Taliban.

The Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi, during a visit to the country’s southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan on Wednesday, warned the Taliban that the group must fulfill its obligations on delivering Iran’s water rights from the Helmand River.

In response, the Taliban spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid said on Thursday that it remained committed to the 1973 treaty which obliges Afghanistan to flow twenty-two cubic meters of water per second into Iran, but cited drought-induced water shortage as the problem.

Iran has stressed the need for independent verification of the Taliban’s claim regarding water availability. In a statement on Friday, the country’s Foreign Ministry rejected the Taliban’s assertion that Iran’s lack of water rights is linked to the drought in Afghanistan.

The statement says that Iran has always emphasized technical cooperation and study in the area of exploration through the water commissioners of the two sides, and demanded a detailed investigation of the water situation in Helmand and provision of the Iranian side’s quota in accordance with the Treaty.

“Non-adherence to the Treaty and non-provision of Iran’s Helmand water rights on the part of Afghanistan and issuing political statements without practical action are not acceptable in any way,” the statement reads.