JERUSALEM, Israel -- U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace talks may be faltering but Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan just signed a major economic pact. They agreement is to lay a water pipeline linking the Red Sea with the Dead Sea. It was signed in Washington on Monday at the headquarters of the World Bank, an Israeli government statement said.
The Dead Sea sits on the Great Rift Valley between Israel and Jordan It's fed by fresh water from the Jordan River and mineral springs. But it's the saltiest lake in the world and no fish can survive in it.
It's been drying up for years at a rate of more than a four-foot drop per year mainly because both Israel and Jordan divert waters for other use and also due to evaporation.
The Red Sea meets both Jordan and Israel at the Gulf of Aqaba.
The inflow of water from the Red Sea is supposed to slow the drying up of the Dead Sea. But it is also meant to provide desalinated water to Jordan and Israel.
According to the Israeli statement, the pipeline will be 180 kilometers -- about 108 miles -- long and will pass through Jordanian territory. It will channel 100 million cubic meters of water each year northward from the Red Sea. The project will cost an estimated $300-400 million.
Israeli Regional Cooperation and National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom called it an "historic agreement" of the "highest diplomatic, economic, environmental and strategic importance."
Shalom said it would benefit Israel and regional residents. It is also meant to generate electricity by "utilizing the difference in elevation between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea" and develop tourism infrastructures.
Experts told CBN News earlier the project is mostly intended to provide water for Jordan, which could be done more economically another way. They also warned quick fixes could actually cause irreparable damage to the Dead Sea and surrounding area. They say the best way to help the Dead Sea is to let the waters flow freely from the Jordan River.