Three European Nations Pull Plug On Turkish Dam Loan

7/7/2009 3:00:00 PM

BERLIN (AFP)--Germany, Switzerland and Austria said Tuesday they were pulling the plug on support for a major dam in Turkey because of concerns it will destroy ancient sites and displace thousands of people.

The three countries' export guarantee agencies said Ankara had failed to meet a number of conditions they had set for awarding EUR1.2 billion worth of loan guarantees frozen in December.

"Despite some significant improvements, the requirements ... in the areas of the environment, cultural heritage and resettlement could not be fulfilled within the contractually stipulated time frame," a joint statement said.

The statement added: "As a result, there is no longer a basis for continuing the project with export risk insurance from the three countries, thus ending the export risk insurance cover."

The project came under intense criticism because it would mean that parts of Hasankeyf, a small and poor town on the banks of the Tigris that was once a mighty city in Mesopotamia in ancient times, would disappear under the water.

Critics say the dam would have destroyed Hasankeyf's unique heritage that includes Assyrian, Roman and Ottoman monuments, and displace an estimate 50,000 people.