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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Israel-Palestinian water deal hailed as a step towards resolving bigger problems

Agreement comes as Quartet warns over worsening Gaza crisis

Jason Greenblatt, Donald Trump's Middle East envoy, welcomes water deal as a signal for future progress. AFP PHOTO / POOL / RONEN ZVULUN
Jason Greenblatt, Donald Trump's Middle East envoy, welcomes water deal as a signal for future progress. AFP PHOTO / POOL / RONEN ZVULUN

Israel has struck a deal to supply water to parched Palestinian communities, a minor breakthrough that officials hope will lead to progress on more contentious issues including the moribund peace process.

Israel will sell up to 33 million cubic metres of water to the Palestinians a year, a fraction of their overall needs but enough to provide some relief during the scorching summer. A third will be delivered to the stricken Hamas-ruled Gaza strip.

Jason Greenblatt, Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy, declined to comment yesterday on efforts to revive the peace process following the collapse of talks in 2014 but said he wanted the water deal to spark further progress between the two sides.

"Water is a precious commodity in the Middle East,” he told reporters in Jerusalem. “I am proud of the role that the United States and our international partners have played in helping the parties reach this deal and I hope it is a harbinger of things to come.”

Greenblatt, charged by Trump with reviving peace talks, was meeting senior Israeli and Palestinian officials during his visit.

The water deal came as the quartet of Middle East peacemakers expressed serious concern at the “deteriorating” situation in Gaza following a meeting in Jerusalem.

The quartet - the European Union, Russia, the US and the United Nations - discussed efforts to resolve the crisis which has led to power cuts and the near collapse of sanitation and health services.

Israel, the main energy provider to Gaza, has cut power supplies at the request of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who is trying to put pressure on Gaza’s Hamas rulers who seized control from his forces a decade ago.

The World Bank is sponsoring a plan to build a 200-kilometre pipeline from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea and a desalination plant to increase fresh water supplies for Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians but the project is expected to take at least four years to complete.

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