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Israel, Palestinian Authority Agree to Restart Joint Water Committee

© AP Photo / Oded Balilty A Palestinian woman stands in the water on the beach during the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016.
A Palestinian woman stands in the water on the beach during the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016. - Sputnik International
After a six-year hiatus, Israel's Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories (COGAT) has signed an agreement with the Palestinian Authority's Minister of Civil Affairs to relaunch meetings of their Joint Water Committee.

The agreement, signed January 15, was lauded by UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov as "an important step toward preserving the two-state solution."

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"I welcome the signature of an agreement to renew the activity of the Israeli — Palestinian Joint Water Committee to improve the water infrastructure and supply in the occupied West Bank and Gaza," he said, noting that the agreement is in line with Middle East Quartet's recommendations.

"If fully implemented, this agreement would be an important step toward preserving the two-state solution. I encourage further cooperation between the two sides which is critical to the viability of a future Palestinian state."

When the committee reconvenes, it will discuss ways to bring more water to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the latter of which has been gripped by an acute water crisis for years. It will be tasked with improving the outdated water infrastructure of the West Bank, including laying new water pipes, Israeli media report.

The sides will also discuss accessing water sources; environmental, irrigation and sewage issues; and in the nearest future will work to coordinate joint reservoir usage ahead of the hot summer months.

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The parties also announced that they had approved a joint strategic planning process to create a 23-year strategic water plan for the region until 2040, taking into account expected population growth.

Head of the COGAT General Yoav Mordechai said at the signing with Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh, "Signing the water agreement proves that you can reach agreements and understandings when you discuss matters in a substantive, bilateral manner that is clean of foreign considerations when it concerns matters of natural resources and other infrastructural issues that affect the entire population," the Jerusalem Post reports.

The signing was held on the same day the declaration of the Paris peace conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was released. Israel dismissed that international conference as pointless.

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