Iraq ends payments to Kuwait but UAE says 'further progress' needed

Hundreds of Kuwaitis remain unaccounted for decades after Saddam Hussein’s invasion

Red Adair fire fighting crew work 01April 1991 on a blown-out well damaged by retreating Iraqi soldiers in Al-Ahmadi oil field in southern Kuwait. In 1991, Iraqi troops retreating after a seven-month occupation, smashed and torched 727 wells, badly polluting the atmosphere and creating crude oil lakes. In addition, up to eight billion barrels of oil were split into the sea by Iraqi forces damaging marine life and coastal areas up to 400 kilometres (250 miles) away. Kuwait will seek more than 16 billion dollars compensation for environment destruction wrought by Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War, Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Anba said 07 December 1998. (Photo by PASCAL GUYOT / AFP)
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Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE's ambassador to the UN, has praised the “historic” conclusion of Iraqi compensation payments to Kuwait but called for more progress on finding missing persons and other issues tied to the decades-old invasion.

Ms Nusseibeh on Tuesday said more work was needed to find and return the remains of those who went missing during Iraq’s occupation of its smaller neighbour in the early 1990s, in addition to artefacts looted from the country during the invasion.

She made her comments during Security Council talks aimed at wrapping up a UN compensation commission after Iraq last month made its final payment towards a total $52.4 billion in damages claims.

“We commend the efforts made by Iraq, especially in spite of the challenges it faces, to pay all of its reparation payments,” Ms Nusseibeh said in New York.

“We hope to see further progress on the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals as well as the issue of missing Kuwaiti property, including items from the National Archives.”

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein ordered his army to invade Kuwait in August 1990 and seize what he called “Iraq's 19th province”, before being pushed back seven months later by a US-led coalition.

Retreating Iraqi troops set ablaze an estimated 750 oil wells, creating one of the largest environmental disasters in history and effectively destroying Kuwait’s main source of income. Thousands were killed and Kuwait says at least 605 citizens remain unaccounted for.

The UN council created the Compensation Commission to process claims and organise payouts to people, companies and governments that suffered during Iraq’s invasion.

The payments are funded by revenue earned from Iraq’s oil exports.

The largest claim approved was for $14.7bn in damages incurred by the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation.

Baghdad’s payments were suspended between 2014 and 2018 when ISIS controlled large parts of the country.

Michael Gaffey, president of the compensation programme, said the body had worked for more than three decades on a mission “not just of restitution, but vitally also of reconciliation” between Iraqis and Kuwaitis.

“For them, it is important that we demonstrate that we are now turning a page of history, noting the remarkable level of national, regional and international co-operation which has marked the successful work of the commission,” he told the Security Council.

Updated: February 22, 2022, 10:01 PM