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Cablegate: Mepn: Multilateral Working Group On Water

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



Interior for USGS/International/Foose

E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: MEPN: Multilateral Working Group on Water
Resources: Meeting of the Regional Water Data Banks Project
Steering Committee

1. The Steering Committee for the Middle East Regional
Water Data Banks project (known by the acronym EXACT -
Executive Action Team) met November 29-December 1 in
Brussels for one of its semi-annual meetings.
Representatives from the USG, Israel, the Palestinian
Authority, Jordan and three other donors (EU, UK, and The
Netherlands) participated. The Data Banks project has
operated continuously since it was established in 1995, even
throughout the five years of the Intifada, and EXACT has met
22 times. It now enjoys strong joint leadership from the
core parties of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian
Authority. Their focus for the next several years will be
on training. End summary.


2. NEA Senior Advisor for Science and Technology Dr.
Charles Lawson chaired the Brussels meeting. Palestinian
Water Authority Director Fadel Kawash, Israeli MFA Acting
Deputy Director General for the Middle East Yaccov Keidar,
and Jordanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation Assistant
Secretary General Fayez Bataineh represented the core

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parties. European Union, UK, and Dutch officials, as active
donors to the Data Banks project, participated, as did their
technical consultants. France, which has supported project
activities in the past, did not participate; although France
committed earlier this year to support a new activity, it
has not been able to secure funding for it. Australia and
Switzerland have expressed interest in supporting project
activities but similarly have not yet found funds to do so.

Regional Training Initiative to Set Framework

3. A major new focus of the Data Banks project driven by
core parties' expressed interest is the Regional Training
Initiative. Palestinian Water Authority Director Kawash
made a strong pitch for the Regional Training Initiative,
noting that the Palestinian Authority not only needs
training but also needs the regional cooperation and
exposure to new ideas and new technologies that the Regional
Training Initiative would provide. U.S. representative and
meeting Chair Lawson said that the USG is prepared to
contribute expertise towards the development of the
initiative's implementation plan and to support training
activities identified in such a plan.

4. The Training Initiative implementation plan will first
assess current capacity, evaluate needs, and then lay out a
framework for delivering training to address gaps and
shortfalls. While the USG will support a number of training
activities, the core parties should be able to use the plan
to engage the support of additional donors as well. The
framework would identify the types of training needed, the
appropriate recipients, who would give the training,
information sources, the best means for providing training,
and other specifics.

5. Palestinian Water Authority Director Fadel Kawash
suggested several times that study tours would be a useful
component of a training framework. Israeli delegate Moshe
Yisraeli commented that training should go into more depth
on certain issues and generate some continuity, rather than
continuously starting new projects and new topics. An
"outside the box" idea was to provide training on
presentation skills (e.g. making a presentation at a
meeting), since people who are called on to do this may be
inexperienced and uncomfortable in public speaking.

Donor Reports on Wide Range of Water Projects

6. Donor countries reported on their particular Data Banks
project activities. These projects can include expert
visits, training sessions, provision of hardware, and
development of databases and software tools. Management of
wastewater was highlighted several times as a difficult and
important issue from both the pollution prevention aspect
and from its status as an underexploited water source.
European Union (EU) representatives outlined several EU
water projects being done in the Middle East and
Mediterranean region.

7. A list of projects currently supported by donors
** water treatment (decontamination),
** artificial recharge of aquifers from surface water,
** development of a decision support system for optimizing
wastewater treatment,
** groundwater modeling,
** developing a monitoring network and baseline data for
wastewater quality,
** flood prediction,
** rainfall intensity,
** water harvesting,
** qualitative management of aquifers threatened by
pollution and salinization,
** a water sample testing program,
** movement of water through aquifers, and
** the impact of wastewater on water quality, with an eye
towards pollution prevention and remediation.

Some Bumps in the Road

8. Several core party representatives made the point on
multiple occasions that the presence of both diplomatic and
technical consulting personnel in the region, as opposed to
being located in European capitals, makes the projects much
more effective, since problems can be identified and solved
more quickly. While the core parties are very pleased with
the progress of Data Banks project activities, some problems
do exist. They include a lack of coordination between the
donor and the core party, a lack of internal coordination by
a core party or a donor, budgetary shortfalls, logistical
problems with Customs authorities or with incorrectly
specified procurement, delays with bid tenders, a lack of
access due to security issues, and scheduling difficulties.

Participants Also Discuss Broader Issues

9. In addition to discussing specific projects, EXACT also
provides a forum for multilateral discussion of broader
water issues. Israeli representative Keidar suggested that
the time might be ripe for restarting the Water Working
Group of the Multilateral Peace Process, perhaps with an
informal meeting of interested parties or a steering
committee meeting. U.S. rep Lawson gave a brief overview of
the U.S.-supported Middle East Desalination Research Center
based in Muscat, Oman. Palestinian Water Authority Director
Kawash also said that he hopes to see other regional
countries like Syria and Lebanon join EXACT. Following the
EXACT meeting, the core parties visited the European
Commission and the Council of Europe to describe EXACT to
high-level groups.

EXACT Website to be Managed by Israeli Water Commission
--------------------------------------------- ----------

10. Prior to the plenary session of EXACT, the core parties
met as a group, the donor countries met separately as a
group, and following those meetings, there were bilateral
consultations between individual donors and individual core

11. One result of the core party consultations was that the
Israel Water Commission agreed to host the EXACT website
( - note: no WWW prefix), currently
hosted on U.S. Geological Survey computers. With the
retirement of USGS stalwarts Anna Lenox and Bill Shampine,
management of EXACT has migrated from USGS to USDA. For
many years, the USG has urged the core parties to take over
management of the website and have the server in the region.
The Israeli Water Commission has agreed to host the website.

12. Comment: EXACT is a clear example of U.S. leadership,
commitment and seed money bringing Israelis, Palestinians
and Jordanians together - and engaging other donors - to
make a real contribution to quality of life and to peace in
the Middle East.


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