Thursday, May 26, 2011

Minister of Transport warns Kuwait and offers resignation in port conflict

Erbil, May 25 (AKnews) – In the ongoing conflict over a new Kuwaiti port at the Iraqi border, Minister of Transport Hadi al Amiri called on Kuwait to respond to Iraqi demands and announced his resignation if Iraq further delays its own port project.

Hadi al-AmiriAmiri said, Iraq does not object the new Kuwaiti Mubarak Port, but said that there are Iraqi concerns that have to be taken seriously. Otherwise Iraq may call on the UN Security Council to take action.

"The Council of Ministers puts the interests of Iraq above everything else and will not allow any violation of its territory or any harm to its economy", Amiri said and added that this particularly applies to the business of Iraq's ports.

Two weeks ago, the Kuwaitis laid the foundation stone to kick off the construction of Mubarak port, just over the border from the site of a new Iraqi port currently in construction, and close to Umm Qasr, Basra, Iraq's only deep water port.

Amiri spoke to journalist in Basra, from where a special committee of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and of Transport was heading towards Kuwait to get first-hand information on Kuwait's plans for its new Mubarak Port.

He pointed out that the Kuwaiti port construction might violate UN Security Council Resolution No. 833 from 1993, which ultimately defines the border between both countries.

The Kuwaiti embassy in Iraq recently assured that Kuwait seeks to regulate the situation in the Arabic Gulf with Iraq.

Delayed construction of al-Faw

Amiri also said, the Iraqi government – that he belongs to – should speed up the construction of its own new port in the area, al-Faw.

"The federal government must provide everything that is necessary to establish Faw Port", Amiri said. Otherwise he would resign from office.

This comment might be a sign of growing conflicts within the Iraqi government about this issue.

Criticism on Iraqi government

ship docking at umm qasr port‭, ‬basraEarlier this week, local politicians from Basra province had argued that the federal government does not do enough to protect Iraqi interests.

On Monday, Ahmad al Sulaiti, vice-chairman of the Provincial Council in Basra, criticized the Iraqi government, respectively the Iraqi parliament, for being unable to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the issue.

­He was supported by the former Iraqi Minister of Transport, Amer Abdul Jabbar, who said he witnesses "a strange silence by the Iraqi government."

National controversy and anti-Kuwaiti remarks

In a statement released on Wednesday, al-Iraqiya List described the government's position regarding this issue as "national", asking all political forces to support the government.

Meanwhile, Habib Hamza al-Tarafi, member of the National Coalition, pointed out that Iraq is dependent on good relations to its neighbors; therefore the issue should be resolved by diplomatic means between the two countries.

"We are concerned that some political parties want to escalate the dispute between Kuwait and Iraq", Tarafi explained. "There are laws that rule the construction of ports in territorial waters."

On Monday, former Transport Minister Amer Abdul Jabbar had called for the federal government and local authorities to close Safwan port at the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border to prevent Kuwaiti goods and travelers coming to Iraq, in order to put pressure on Kuwait.

On Saturday, Awwad Uday, a Sadrist MP from Basra, warned that his list is ready to act in a way that will "surprise all the political blocs" in Iraq, adding thatit had "taken a path no other bloc had taken towards the Kuwaiti port issue".

And last week, Arkan Arshad, member of the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Relations, had to ask politicians to abstain from xenophobic statements against targeting Kuwait.

"Members of parliament have the freedom to make statements, but the correct diplomatic channel for comments is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs", Ashad said, after officials and activists had called for the closure of the Kuwaiti embassy and expulsion of their ambassador from Baghdad.

Threat for Iraqi ports and relations to Kuwait

Mubarak port will be built on Boubyan Island in Kuwait, just a few kilometers away from the site of Iraq's Al Faw port project, by Korean company Hyundai. Mubarak Port is projected to reach completion by 2016 at a cost of $1.1bn and will process 1.8m containers a year by 2015.

Iraq fears that the construction of the new port will take business away from their ports and effect fishermen working in the Gulf. According to economists, Iraq's main port will lose 60 per cent of its business if Kuwait goes ahead with its plans.

Historic tensions have been flared by the announcement. Iraq-Kuwait relations have just started to normalize after effort to resolve conflicts that arose during Sadddam Hussein's time in power.

Joint committees have recently been formed to address major issues currently blocking reconciliation, including the payment of reparations to Kuwait for the Gulf war, the disputed position of the border, Kuwaitis missing in Iraq since the conflict and the management of joint-owned oil fields.

By Christopher V. Unger
Sirwa Horami, Noor al-Tamimi, Hasoon al-Haffar and Haider Ibrahim contributed to this story


25/05/2011 20:07