Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the President of Uzbekistan, has warned that the Taliban's construction of the Qush Tepa canal has the potential to significantly alter the water dynamics and balance in Central Asia.
Mirziyoyev said that a new consumer has appeared that "does not have any obligations with our countries”.
He made these statements on Friday at the fifth Central Asian Leader’s Summit in Dushanbe city.
In addition to Mirziyoyev, presidents of Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan attended this summit.
Uzbekistan’s president also suggested the formation of a collaborative group involving these nations to address the issue that has arisen concerning the transfer of water from the Qush Tepa Canal.
He stressed, "I consider it necessary to form a joint group to examine all aspects of the Qush Tepa canal construction and its impact on the Amu Darya water region."
He also suggested to consider the issue of Taliban’s participation in regional talks on the joint use of water resources.
Uzbekistan has relatively close relations with the Taliban. Ismatilla Ergashev, Mirziyoyev’s special representative for Afghanistan, has visited Afghanistan several times and has hold talks with Taliban officials, including about the Qush Tepa canal.
Mirziyoyev considered engaging with the Taliban as a means to prevent border tensions with group.
In March 2022, the Taliban announced construction of the Qush Tepa Canal in northern Afghanistan.
According to Abdul Ghani Baradar, Taliban’s Deputy Prime Minister, this project can boost Afghanistan’s agriculture sector.
In February 2023, the Economist magazine in an analysis wrote that although the Qush Tepa Canal, benefits Afghan farmers, but it can fuel conflict and tension with countries such as Uzbekistan.
It added that Uzbekistan relies on the Amu River to irrigate its cotton fields, but the Taliban's development of the canal could reduce the water level in the river.
According to reports, cotton cultivation is the largest source of employment and income in Uzbekistan, and a decrease of water level in Amu River is a significant threat to the country's textile industry.
The Taliban said that more than seven billion Afs have been allocated for the construction of the canal and it will take six years to complete.
The National Resistance Front (NRF) had previously claimed that the Taliban has distributed lands around the Qush Tepa canal.
NRF had stressed that the Taliban was distributing lands near the Qush Tepa Canal to "terrorists".