Politics & Economics

Relations Deteriorate After Iraq Accused Kuwait Of Geographic Changes Along The Maritime Border


Despite the recent improvement of diplomatic and economic ties between Iraq and Kuwait, the former accused the small Gulf country of infringing on agreements set between them in regards to their maritime border in the Persian Gulf.

Despite the recent improvement in Iraqi-Kuwaiti diplomatic relations, tensions have begun to remerge between the two countries over a dispute over maritime borders. A Kuwaiti Newspaper, al-Rai, revealed that Iraq sent a complaint letter to the UN Security Council on the 7th of August, accusing the Gulf country of carrying out “geographic changes” to disputed areas within the Khor Abdullah naval region. According to Iraq, Kuwait expanded the shallow region of Fesht al-Aij and built a port there without the knowledge or consent of Baghdad. According to Iraqi officials, Kuwait is attempting to expand its territories in the Persian Gulf, which reduces Iraq’s access to the waterway. However, these accusations were quickly rejected by the Kuwaitis who said that the Fesht al-Aij region lies within the maritime boundaries, meaning there was no infringement of Iraqi naval space. Furthermore, Kuwaiti officials stated that this was discussed in several bilateral meetings that the two countries conducted.

These disputes have been an outstanding issue between the two countries since 1993 when a UN Security Council Resolution established an international border between the two countries in the Khor Abdullah region. However, both the Iraqi and Kuwaiti sides began building ports along this region, which has heightened tensions previously. In 2013 the two countries ratified a cooperation agreement, which regulated maritime navigation through the Khor Abdullah region to develop economic growth and pursue common interests. This agreement was condemned mainly by Iraqi MPs who stated that Iraq has given up its water rights to the Persian Gulf to satisfy its southern neighbour. However, this did not significantly affect the official diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Furthermore, after the defeat of ISIS, Kuwait began mending ties with Iraq by hosting the Iraq Reconstruction Conference in 2018, which sought to bring together countries and donors to pledge money to rebuild destroyed areas in Iraq and invest in its private sectors. Furthermore, a visit by the Emir of Kuwait in June 2019 showed that the two countries have begun warming up to each other more. As a result, the announcement of this complaint came as a shock to many, who believed that the two countries relations have never been better. While Iraqi officials have stated that this is merely a legal, geographical dispute, MPs on both sides of the conflict are attempting to use this issue to create a schism between the two countries.