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Trump envoy mediates Israeli-Palestinian water deal

Trump envoy mediates Israeli-Palestinian water deal

JERUSALEM, July 13 (Xinhua) -- Israel and the Palestinian National Authority announced Thursday a new water deal under which Israel would supply the Palestinians with millions of cubic meters annually.

U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, who helped to negotiate the deal, said it was an "important step forward" towards a regional water deal.

The agreement was announced at a joint press conference in Jerusalem held by Israel's Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, Head of the Palestinian Water Authority Mazen Ghoneim, and Greenblatt.

The Palestinians suffer a water shortage and complain an unequal distribution of water between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Under the new deal, Israel would provide the PNA with 32 million cubic meters per year -- 10 million of which would be provided to the Gaza Strip and the rest would be directed to the West Bank.

The agreement was the first step in wider, trilateral plan that involves the construction of a 220-kilimeter pipeline transferring water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea to replenish the draining and depleting Dead Sear. It involves Israel, Jordan, and the PNA.

"Water is a precious commodity in the Middle East," Greenblatt said during the signing ceremony. "The U.S. welcomes the agreement reached by the Palestinian Authority and the government of Israel, which will allow for the sale of 32 million cubic meters of water from Israel to the Palestinian Authority," he said.

"In addition, we hope that the deal will contribute to the healing of the Dead Sea and that will help not only Palestinians and Israelis but Jordanians as well," he added.

Greenblatt refused to tell reporters whether the deal signals any further development in the White House efforts to revive the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Hanegbi said that the "historic and important" agreement demonstrates that water "must be a means of cooperation, not a cause for disagreement."

He said that Israel is committed to help in desalination of water within the framework of the larger deal, dubbed by Israelis as the "Canal of Seas Project."

"This project will increase the water supply to Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority," said Hanegbi.

[ Editor: meng ]