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John F. Kennedy Administration: Letter Concering Jordanian Valley Development

(August 26, 1961)

This letter highlights the U.S. desire for an international control system of the Jordanian Valley waterway to establish a more equitable allocation of the water and permit equal opportunity for economic growth.

Dear George:

In my conversation with you this morning I failed to discuss what I consider to be one of the most important aspects of the Jordan Valley development--an international control system for the whole waterway. Such a system was originally set up and agreed upon, and is vital if each of the countries is to get its share of the water as outlined in the original plan.

Under this program Jordan was to receive all the water from the Yarmuk, less the original riparian rights of Israel in the Jordan-Yarmuk triangle plus 70 to 100 mcms. of water from the Jordan River itself. This additional water from the Jordan River is vital if you are to proceed to irrigate the west Ghor of the Jordan Valley in Jordan.

As soon as the Israelis are in a position to start pumping it is obvious that they will not be interested in any water master going up and down the river, checking on any amount of water taken. Nor could the Jordanians be persuaded to store water in Lake Tiberias.

Although approximately 400 mcms. of water can be stored at Maqarin at a high cost, to try to store the balance of the Yarmuk water by damsites on the river would be prohibitive. Loss to the Kingdom of Jordan of the right to store 300 mcms. of water from the Yarmuk in Lake Tiberias, plus the loss of 70 to 100 mcms. of water from the Jordan River, would make it useless to try to irrigate the west Ghor of the Jordan Valley in the Kingdom of Jordan. This would mean that only a little over half of the potential Arab refugees could be put on the land, making this problem more difficult to solve, and that the Kingdom of Jordan would lose the opportunity of becoming a self-supporting and viable state.

Whoever or however the new approach is handled it is vital that international control of the river system be effected soon. It is not important who does this; but it is important that whoever does, must assume the responsibility for instituting an international control system.

I have sufficient confidence in what we were able to achieve in our negotiations in terms of an equitable distribution of the waters of the system and the economic development of the area that history will prove us right, and in that confidence I will, of course, always be ready to be of any assistance and render any advice that I can.

I appreciate your courtesies to me this morning.

With warmest best wishes, I am

Sincerely yours,


/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 985.7301/8-2661. No classification marking.

Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963: Near East, 1962-1963, V. XVIII. DC: GPO, 2000.