This paper addresses hydro-hegemony from the perspective of International Water Law, by examining the role of law in upstream/downstream negotiations. It is built on the understanding that International Water Law constitutes an element of power relations, asserting that it is a source of structural and bargaining power. The first section of the paper discusses main principles that have emerged, and their establishment as terms of reference for water cooperation. In the second part, competing claims are analysed to see how co-riparians in the Euphrates and Tigris basins have provided deliberately conflicting interpretations over “International rivers”, “equitable and reasonable utilization”, “no harm”, “prior notification” and “consultation” to derive negotiating positions and influence from International Water Law. Conclusions point to the understanding of water law as a structural variable, impacting on the actors’ constraints and options and enhancing the structural power of the non-hegemonic riparians. International Water Law appears to operate as well as process-related variable which influences the process and outcome of water negotiations. As a source of bargaining power, legal principles increase the legitimacy of downstream riparians and enhances their bargaining position in the negotiation process.

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