Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians have signed a historic deal to make more water available while combating the shrinkage of the Dead Sea. The pact is part of a yearslong effort to address water issues in the region.
All three countries agreed Monday to work together on a $300 million dollar (218.3 million euros) project to divert water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. The pact was signed at the World Bank's headquarters in Washington.
The project envisions a 180-kilometer (111-mile) pipeline that will channel some 200 million cubic feet of water each year to be desalinated in a new plant on Jordan's coast at Aqaba. Both Jordanian and nearby Israeli residents would use the water.
Brine left from the desalination process would be piped north to the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea has been dropping by a reported 1 meter annually as the flow of the Jordan River has been diverted for human consumption.
Under the agreement, Israel will increase its water sales to the Palestinian Authority by 20-30 million cubic meters a year, up from the current level of 52 millions cubic meters.
The project, which is expected to take three years to complete, comes after 11 years of negotiations and as the United States pushes fresh efforts to forge a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians.
"It gives a glimmer of hope that we can overcome more obstacles in the future," said Sylvan Shalom, Israel's Minister of Energy and Water Resources at the signing.
"We showed that we can work together despite the political problems," said the Palestinian water minister, Shaddad Attili.
Some environmental groups have, however, opposed the project as having an uncertain impact on Dead Sea ecology.