Kuwait moves security forces near borders with Iraq

Deployment comes after calls in Iraq to stage demonstrations to protest an agreement over navigation rights

Kuwait has moved some of its security forces to the borders with Iraq as a precautionary measure in anticipation of any excesses by participants in a rally held on the Iraqi side.

“Based on the information about the presence of Iraqi crowds in Umm Qasr adjacent to the area of Khur Abdullah, several Kuwaiti military battalions, particularly security, control and armour forces, were moved to the border region as a precautionary measure and the state of alert and readiness was raised,” the assistant undersecretary for land border security, Abdullah Al Muhanna, told Kuwaiti daily Al Jareeda.

The deployment of the security forces at the borders followed calls in Iraq to stage demonstrations to protest the agreement over navigation rights in the estuary signed by Kuwait and Iraq in 2012.

“The situation is under control and the precautionary measures taken by Kuwait will deter any abuse,” Al Muhanna said, quoted by Al Jareeda on Saturday.

Iraqi sources said that the rally on Friday was initially planned to be held alongside the border, but was shifted to another location after security forces requested the change of location.

The Iraqi Defense Ministry in a statement on Friday said that its naval forces conducted an “exploratory round in the waters of the northern Gulf.”

“The aim was to ensure the protection of the oil ports and to monitor the curbing of smuggling operations, as well as to follow-up on the entry of commercial vessels to Iraq’s territorial waters, as all these hold a significant dimension in the economy of the country,” the ministry said.

Both countries have put the particularly thorny issue of border demarcation following UN Resolution 833 and a bilateral agreement signed in 2012 and ratified in 2013.

However, last month the Iraqi parliament flared up following bitter standoffs between lawmakers who accused their government of surrendering the maritime border to Kuwait through the agreements and others who defended the official stance.

Some Iraqi MPs claimed Khor Abdullah was not included in legal or geographic terms in Resolution 833.

Others alleged that the government would be compromising Iraqi sovereignty by going ahead with the Khor Abdullah agreement.

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 three of that resolution.”

The 2012 agreement, deposited at the UN following the signature by both countries, calls for the formation of a joint commission to organise navigation, guarantee the safety of Khor Abdullah, protect the environment, maintain the inlet and handle fishing boats.

Iraqi Prime Minister Dr Haider Al Abadi, in a statement on January 31, termed as “unjustified” the raising by some parties of the issues of Khor Abdullah and border demarcation with Kuwait, even though the frontiers were demarcated per UN Resolution 833.

“The aim of raising these issues now is to deflect attention from victory achieved in the city of Mosul,” Al Abadi told a news conference. “Unjustified media frenzy has been created over Khor Abdullah.”

In Kuwait, Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Al Jarallah in February insisted that Kuwait did not take even a single inch of Iraqi territory.

“Khor Abdullah is a waterway between Kuwait and Iraq, and the agreement between the two countries is related to the regulation of navigation, and not to the demarcation of the border,” Al Jarallah said. “The border demarcation between the two countries was finalised by United Nations Resolution 833. We are currently implementing the agreement to regulate navigation between Kuwait and Iraq which was signed in 2012. We started some time ago to implement it and to develop the technical bases for the operation. The meetings between officials from both countries on January 24-27 confirmed the technical process to organise navigation in Khor Abdullah.”