Kuwait, Iraq embroiled in new territorial dispute

Kuwait rejects claims it is seizing Iraqi land, says committed to maritime border agreement

A political crisis could be looming between Kuwait and Iraq after lawmakers in Baghdad contested a decision by the Iraqi cabinet regarding navigation activities in Khor Abdullah, the border waterway between the two countries.

On Thursday, the Iraqi parliament witnessed a bitter standoff between lawmakers who accused the government of surrendering the maritime border to Kuwait and others who defended it.

In 2013, the two countries agreed on a deal regulating the use of the Khor Abdullah estuary and referred their agreement to the United Nations amid high hopes it would end one of the thorniest issues remaining from the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990.

The two countries said they were committed to the agreement governing the maritime relations between them on the basis of United Nations resolutions, in particular Resolution 833, and facilitating the passage of ships and traffic flow in the channel.

A spokesperson for the Iraqi prime minister said that the government was “obliged to implement the agreement on Khor Abdullah Canal with Kuwait” and “cannot withdraw from this obligation without Kuwaiti consent.”

Saad Al Hadithi said in a press statement that the Iraqi parliament “approved in its previous term the endorsement and ratification of the Maritime Agreement in Khor Abdullah in 2012,” Iraq Trade Link News Agency reported on Saturday.

Al Hadithi added that the outgoing Iraqi cabinet, headed by Nouri Al Maliki, endorsed the border demarcation between the two countries, including the maritime law.

“The current cabinet, acting on previous endorsements and commitments, directed to complete the engineering questions according to UN resolutions,” the spokesperson said.

In Kuwait City, Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Al Jarallah dismissed allegations by some Iraqi lawmakers that Kuwait was carving out parts of Iraqi territory for itself.

“Kuwait did not take a single inch of Iraqi territory and does not accept at the same time that anyone encroaches on any inch of its own territory,” Al Jarallah told the media on Sunday evening.

The senior official said that he deplored the allegations and the MPs’ accusations that Kuwait seized Khor Abdullah, stressing there were no new developments regarding the issue.

“Kuwait remains fully committed to the agreement with Iraq regarding the maritime border demarcation Resolution 833,” he said. “Kuwait will not alter the geographic facts in the area, and I affirm that Kuwait did not go beyond its borders or seize any inch of Iraqi land.”

Kuwait wanted to implement the agreement during a meeting of senior officials from the two countries on January 24-27 to organise the technical foundations for maritime activities in Khor Abdullah, he added.

“We agreed with the Iraqis on several points related to navigation, and the two countries are set to benefit from the agreement. Any claim that Kuwait wants to take over the waterway is baseless, lacks credibility and does not reflect genuine facts. Such claims can be made only by people who do not wish to see closer relations between Kuwait and Iraq and want to harm both countries,” Al Jarallah said.

The Deputy Foreign Minister said that Kuwait, however, would not make an official protest “because the claims were not made by the Iraqi government.”

Resolution 833 stipulates that “through the demarcation process the Commission was not reallocating territory between Kuwait and Iraq, but it was simply carrying out the technical task necessary to demarcate for the first time the precise coordinates of the boundary set out in the ‘Agreed Minutes between the State of Kuwait and the Republic of Iraq regarding the Restoration of Friendly Relations, Recognition and Related Matters’ signed by them on 4 October 1963.”

The resolution said that the “task was carried out in the special circumstances following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and pursuant to resolution 687 (1991) and the Secretary-General’s report for implementing paragraph 3 of that resolution.”