Iraq and Kuwait seek to resolve disputes over maritime border and oilfields

No progress has been made on the issues since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, left, welcomes Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Salem Al Sabah in Baghdad on Sunday. AP
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Iraq and Kuwait pledged on Sunday to work towards resolving issues dating back to Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of the oil-rich country.

Top of the agenda at a meeting in Baghdad were the disputes over the maritime border demarcation and joint oilfields.

“We discussed the pending issues between the two sides and we also discussed ways to protect the good relations between the two countries and develop them,” Iraqi Foreign Minster Fuad Hussein said at a joint press conference with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Salem Abdullah Al Jaber Al Sabah.

The technical-legal committee on the maritime border will meet in Baghdad on August 14, followed by a delegation visit from Kuwaiti Oil Minister Saad Al Barrak on September 10.

“There were extensive discussions on the [maritime border] issue and both sides expressed their opinions and agreed to continue discussions,” Mr Hussein said.

A supreme committee linked to Iraqi Foreign Ministry will lead the discussions and supervise all other subcommittees, he added.

Sheikh Salem hailed Sunday's discussions as “very fruitful, reflecting the deepness of the strong bilateral relations between our countries”.

“We are determined to work hand-in-hand to develop these relations and to develop and push them to new horizons,” he said.

Both countries realised the importance of solving the issues and “on top of them the issue of ending the maritime border demarcation”, he said.

The land border between the two neighbours was demarcated by the UN after the Iraqi army was pushed out of Kuwait. But the maritime boundary was left for the two sides to resolve.

Since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam, both countries have been meeting to resolve this and several other issues, with little progress made.

Iraqi fishermen have complained of harassment by Kuwaiti fishermen, alleging that they do not respect maritime boundaries, particularly regarding navigation in the Khor Abdullah, a waterway that separates Iraq from Kuwait and is Iraq's gateway to the Gulf.

Iraq is constructing the multi-billion dollar Grand Port of Al Faw on Khor Abdullah, which at in the heart of the country's ambitious plan to connect Asia to Europe through rail and road networks that traverse Turkey.

Early last year, Iraq paid its last war reparations to Kuwait, settling the $52.4 billion of claims made for damage inflicted during the 1990 invasion.

Both ministers also discussed the issue of Kuwaiti nationals who had gone missing during the invasion, Kuwaiti-owned properties in the southern province of Basra, fishing, the fight against drugs trafficking and the mutual facilitation of visits by Iraqi and Kuwaiti citizens.

To boost trade, the Kuwaiti minister announced the opening a of commercial attache office at the Kuwaiti consulate in Basra.

Iraqi Minister of Transport Razzaq Al Saadawi and Basra Governor Asaad Al Eidani, as well as representatives from the Oil Ministry, attended the meeting.

Kuwait is also in dispute with Iran over their maritime border and Al Durra offshore gasfield in the Arabian Gulf.

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia say they have “exclusive rights” to Al Durra and called on Iran to validate its claim by first demarcating its own maritime borders.

Iran previously claimed a stake in the field and described a Kuwaiti-Saudi agreement signed last year to develop the field as “illegal”.

Updated: July 30, 2023, 3:07 PM