Dudič, Peter: What are the implications in international law of Turkey’s damming of international rivers?



Transboundary issues in international law provide some interesting discussions about legal aspects of contemporary issues. This paper deals with a case study on the utilisation of the Euphrates and Tigris Basin by its three riparian states - Turkey, Iraq and Syria.

This article covers the general scope of international law concerning international rivers and provides the reader with an insight into major water rights theories and doctrines, and furthermore introduces an important document, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses. In particular, the cross-border conflict in Mesopotamia is discussed.

Turkey’s ambitious plans to dam Euphrates and Tigris are part of the South East Anatolia Project which has consequences for the downstream states. Through careful analysis of previous disputes over and agreements on those rivers, it is shown that international customary law is the most relevant source. As different doctrines are supported by different riparian states, they remain in contradiction and there is yet no solution for the dispute. International law is a system built on consent, especially to cede a concept of sovereignty, thus international law is hard pressed to apply to a situation where the survival of nations is in question, such as the water conflict among Turkey, Iraq and Syria.