Kuwaiti MPs call for response over Iraqi sea border ruling

Iraq's supreme court earlier says law governing sharing of crucial waterway with Gulf was unconstitutional

Fishing boats docked on the bank of the Shatt Al Arab waterway in the southern Iraqi port city of Al Faw. AFP
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Several Kuwaiti MPs have called on the government to respond following a recent decision by Iraq’s top court to strike down a law that governs the sharing of a crucial waterway to the Arabian Gulf.

Abdullah Al Mudhaf, who heads the Kuwaiti Parliament’s foreign relations committee, confirmed on Tuesday that the panel had formally put in a request for a meeting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss Baghdad's decision.

The Iraqi Federal Supreme Court annulled the law ratifying a 2012 agreement between Iraq and Kuwait on the Khor Abdullah strait in the Arabian Gulf, which regulated maritime navigation on the crucial waterway.

The ruling on Monday, following a case filed by Iraqi MPs last month, said the law was unconstitutional.

Khor Abdullah is a narrow waterway that leads in from the Arabian Gulf, curving around Kuwait's Bubiyan and Warba islands on one side and Iraq's Al Faw Peninsula on the other.

The court said in its ruling that the law was inconsistent with the Iraqi Constitution, which mandates approval through legislation to be passed with a two-thirds majority in parliament.

A day later, the Iraqi court also postponed a case filed by an MP to revoke two government decrees to form committees from different ministries with Kuwait for the demarcation of maritime borders.

MP Soud Al Saied told The National the two decrees by the previous government in 2021 were unconstitutional because former prime minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi had to send a draft law for the demarcation of Iraqi-Kuwaiti maritime borders to parliament.

Mr Al Saiedi, who filed the case, also argued the two decrees were not signed by Mr Al Kadhimi but by his office manager.

The committees held several meetings with the Kuwaiti side and reached preliminary understandings, he said.

In Tuesday’s session, the highest court accepted the government representative's request for postponement to offer more supporting documents, he added.

The next session will be held on September 20, he said.

While the Kuwaiti government is yet to formally release a statement since the Iraqi court’s ruling, government and parliamentary sources told The National that it remains an internal Iraqi matter and that further discussions are being prepared in the meantime.

“This decision by the court does not cancel the current agreement between the two countries,” Kuwaiti political analyst Dahem Al Qahtani told The National. “The agreement is in accordance with international treaties and applies between the two countries after it is signed by the governments of the two countries and the text of the treaty is registered with the United Nations.”

Following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 833 in 1993 which determined the land border between Iraq and Kuwait.

However, the delineation of the maritime border was left to the two countries.

In July, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Salem Al Sabah visited Baghdad and both sides vowed to resolve the pending issues, mainly the maritime border demarcation beyond Khor Abdullah and the joint oilfields.

They then announced that the technical-legal committee on the maritime border would meet in Baghdad on August 14, followed by a visit from the Kuwaiti Oil Minister and his delegation on September 10.

For her part, MP Jenan Bushehri who also sits on the Kuwaiti foreign relations committee said a meeting with the foreign ministry in the coming days would be the next step.

“The decision to hold a meeting in the presence of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to follow up on the government’s actions and options regarding the Iraqi Federal Court’s ruling is a step in the right direction to activate parliamentary oversight and follow-up, especially since the issue relates to national security and the maritime borders with Iraq,” she said in a statement.

A source close to the matter told The National that the Kuwaiti foreign ministry would respond to the MPs' request to hold a meeting soon. The Kuwaiti parliament is currently on summer break until October when a formal debate – either open or closed – would normally be requested.

Updated: September 05, 2023, 6:09 PM