Completion of border maintenance work will be “major milestone” in normalizing Iraq, ­Kuwait relations

UNITED NATIONS, March 21 (KUNA) ­­ The UN special Envoy for Iraq Martin Kobler on Thursday said that the “major milestone” for normalizing relations between Iraq and Kuwait will be the “completion of boundary maintenance work,” which “must be done” before the end of this month.

“I have mentioned the progress achieved towards the normalization of relations between Iraq and Kuwait, including through Iraq’s positive steps towards fulfilling its remaining obligations under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. A major milestone in this process will be the completion of boundary maintenance work,” Kobler told the Security Council in an open meeting to discuss the work of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) which he heads.

He said the finalization of the removal of obstacles along the border, in particular the three houses in Umm Qasr, is a “necessary step”. “Understandably, this step is sensitive and politically difficult for Iraq, ” he explained. “However, this must be done by 31 March”.

Iraqi Ambassador Hamid Al­Bayati expressed “hope” that the work will be done by that date.

“The joint technical team is working on the border pillars maintenance project, hoping that they could finish by the end of this month and close one of the most important issues between the two countries,” Al­Bayati told the Council.

“This would pave the way,” he argued, “to bilateral relations based on mutual respect and common interest and paving the way for the exit of Iraq from chapter seven”.

Kobler also urged Baghdad to accept the Kuwaiti funds set aside with the UN to compensate Iraqi farmer pursuant to Council resolution 899. He expressed hope that this progress will lead to consensus on further “outstanding issues, including the file of missing Kuwaiti national and property”.

He said he sensed during his visit to Kuwait earlier this month “a spirit of optimism with the Kuwaiti leadership”.

“Therefore, it is with much anticipation that I welcome the upcoming visit of the Prime Minister, Sheikh Jaber Al­ Sabah, to Baghdad in the near future,” Kobler said.

Al­Bayati said his government is “steadfast continuing the development of its relations with all countries of the region especially with the State of Kuwait”.

He urged the Council to assist Iraq in order to exit chapter seven that was imposed due to the “crime of Kuwait invasion by Saddam Hussein which made Iraq a threat to international peace and security”.

“Iraq today is not the Iraq before 2003… Iraq must regain the status it enjoyed before 1990,” the year Iraq invaded and annexed Kuwait, he said.

He complained, however, that Iraq is witnessing a political stalemate and an exchange of accusations among some of the political blocs, and that protests are continuing in a number of cities that are calling for a number of demands.

He indicated that the preliminary objectives of the demonstrations “deviated from the path of popular demands and they were infiltrated by terrorist groups aiming at stirring sectarian tensions and civil war”.

“The foreign and regional players that kidnapped the legitimate demands of citizens were exposed when the flags of the Free Syrian Army and portraits of foreign leaders were displayed during the demonstrations,” Al­ Bayati said.

He noted that although Iraqi Security Forces are combating “terrorist activities, many of the rebel groups, including AI Qaeda are still active in parts of Iraq”.

He indicated that foreign companies have invested more than 55 Billion in investment projects and service contracts and other activities in all of Iraq, and that direct foreign investment reached about 2 Billion after being almost zero from a decade ago, pointing out that these amounts don’t include tens of Billions of Dollars of investments in the energy sector.

Nonetheless, he added, Iraq is working to attract investments to the country in order to contribute in reconstruction after years of suffering from neglect due to years of wars and sanctions.

Kobler also painted a bleak picture of the political situation in Iraq, warning that the political conditions are “weakening. In essence, the political fabric is fraying.” “The deep­seated lack of trust threatens the political fabric and the social bonds that should bring Iraqis together in one united, federal country on the basis of the constitution,” he said.

He agreed with Al­Bayati that “terrorists seek to ignite sectarian conflict and turn the clock back on Iraq’s nascent stability,” indicating that between November 2012 to February 2013, 1,300 innocent Iraqis were killed and 3,090 injured.

Kobler urged the parliament and the political blocs in Iraq to reach consensus on the oil­sharing revenue.

“The sharing of immense natural resources of Iraq in a fair and equitable way is a must and a prerequisite to rebuilding the trust. We will continue to build trust no matter how difficult it is,” he vowed.