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Climate change may trigger wars in Middle East
By ALBERT AJI
Associated Press
2009-06-04 12:01 AM
Climate change in the Middle East may trigger environmental wars in the volatile region by increasing competition for scarce water resource and complicating peace agreements, according to a study released this week by a Canadian-based think tank.

The report from the Winnipeg-based International Institute for Sustainable Development is predicting a hotter, drier and less predictable climate in the Middle East that poses real security concerns to the region already considered the world's most water scarce.

The report was funded by the Danish Foreign Ministry and the launch was co-hosted by the Danish Institute in Damascus and Syria's Orient Center for International Studies.

A copy of the report was made available to The Associated Press Wednesday.

"The expectation of coming environmental wars might imply that the way to deal with shrinking resources is to increase military control over them," the study said.

It warned that climate change may also "hinder the negotiation of future peace agreements" and have implications for the viability of an independent Palestinian state as well as an eventual peace agreement between Israel and Syria involving the return of the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

"With 30 percent of the waters of the Sea of Galilee originating in the Golan Heights, the return of the Golan to Syria and the water issues at stake are intricately linked," the report said.

"While no one seriously argues that the occupation of the West Bank and the Golan was driven by Israeli concerns over food security, reduced agricultural productivity in Israel could shift the strategic calculation on whether to withdraw from such areas," it added.

Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations in 2000 broke down over the extent of an Israeli withdrawal, with Israel insisting on keeping disputed land around the Sea of Galilee, Israel's main water source.

Turkish-mediated indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria last year also failed to make headway, and Syria's president said in a newspaper interview in March that those talks failed because Israel would not make a clear commitment to return all of the Golan up to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

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