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Jerusalem (AFP) Dec 09, 2013
Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians are on Monday to sign a joint water-sharing initiative, but an environmental group denied it was connected to the controversial Red Sea, Dead Sea plan.
According to Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME), the agreement, which will be signed at the World Bank's headquarters in Washington, will see Jordan providing 50 million cubic litres of desalinated water to Israel's Red Sea resort of Eilat.
In exchange, the Jewish state will provide northern Jordan with the same amount of water from the Sea of Galilee.
It will also see Israel raising its annual sales of water to the Palestinian Authority by 20-30 million cubic metres a year, up from the current level of 52 million cubic metres.
But FoEME denied it had anything to do with a World Bank project to link the Red Sea with the shrinking Dead Sea, and accused an Israeli minister of deliberately misleading the public over the issue.
Earlier, Israel's Energy and Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom had described it as a "historic" move to link the Red Sea with the Dead Sea in a bid to save the inland salt lake from drying up.
"This is a breakthrough after many years of efforts," he said. "It is nothing less than a historic move."
Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East, told AFP the project had absolutely nothing to do with the much-maligned Red-Dead conduit proposal, which the World Bank estimated would cost $11 billion.
"It's a completely different project," he said.
"It's a water exchange project that has an option to bring brine from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Dead Sea, should that be found workable."
But channelling brine generated from the proposed desalination plant which is to be built near Aqaba, up to the Dead Sea would cause the water-sharing project to fail, he said.
"Trying to link it to the Dead Sea will lead to its complete demise," he said, noting that World Bank studies had found that introducing Red Sea brine could have "detrimental impacts" on the Dead Sea's fragile ecosystem.
"It will also increase the cost of desalinating water in Aqaba by 30 percent, and it will maintain the protest of the environmental groups."
Bromberg accused Shalom of "a cynical manipulation to keep the Red-Dead plan alive and give the impression it was moving forward."
"It's now very clear that he misled the public."
Israel's top-selling Yediot Aharonot said Shalom would be signing the agreement in Washington with Palestinian Authority's minister in charge of water issues, Shadad Attili, and Jordanian Water Minister Hazem Nasser.
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