According to recent discussions between the Foreign Ministers of Iraq and Kuwait, the two countries have agreed to work towards reaching a definitive agreement on demarcating their land and settling the disputed maritime area of the Gulf. This move comes as they aim to resolve long-standing issues dating back to Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, an event that led to years of tension and strained relations between the neighboring nations.
Following the talks held in Baghdad, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein stated that both parties emphasized the importance of "resolving the border issues." He further revealed that the border talks would continue through various technical committees, indicating a commitment to finding a lasting resolution. As part of their efforts to address outstanding disputes, the two countries have also sought to resolve conflicts over joint oilfields, an issue that has contributed to their strained relationship over the years.
The discussions have resulted in concrete plans for further engagement. A meeting of a legal committee, related to the ongoing talks, is scheduled to take place in the Iraqi capital on August 14. Subsequently, Kuwaiti Oil Minister Saad Al Barrak is expected to visit Baghdad on September 10, indicating the high-level attention being given to finding a resolution.
One of the major sticking points in the decades-long dispute is the delineation of the maritime boundaries. While the land border between the countries was established by the United Nations in 1993, the maritime border remains a contentious issue. Iraq asserts that the delineation should provide it unhindered access to Gulf waters, which are crucial for its economy and oil exports.
Despite Iraq's willingness to recognize Kuwait's land border, tensions persist over the maritime boundaries. Kuwaiti coastguards have been regularly detaining Iraqi fishermen and seizing their vessels when they enter Kuwaiti territorial waters "illegally." On the other hand, Iraqi fishermen have complained about harassment by Kuwaiti fishermen and their alleged disregard for maritime boundaries.
It is worth noting that the recent developments are occurring in the context of Iraq's efforts, under Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani, to foster closer ties with Arab Gulf monarchies. This comes as part of a broader strategy to enhance regional economic cooperation and address challenges like the flow of narcotics.
The talks and efforts towards resolution also follow Iraq's completion of the final payment of war reparations to Kuwait in 2021, amounting to $52 billion. This payment marked an important milestone in post-conflict relations between the two countries, paving the way for further diplomatic engagement.
The recent discussions between Iraq and Kuwait indicate a willingness to address long-standing issues related to their borders and maritime boundaries. Both countries are engaging in talks, setting up committees, and planning high-level visits to find a definitive agreement.
Despite the progress, challenges persist, especially concerning the contested maritime area and incidents involving fishermen from both nations. Nonetheless, the current efforts signal a commitment to resolving these disputes and fostering closer ties for the benefit of both nations and the broader region.
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