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Iraq's Foreign Minister Fuad Hussain (right) and his counterpart from Kuwait Salem Abdullah Al Jaber Al Sabah attend a press conference in Baghdad on July 30, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

BAGHDAD: Iraq and Kuwait will work towards reaching a definitive agreement on demarcating their borders, including a contested maritime area of the Gulf, their foreign ministers said on Sunday.

The de facto land and maritime borders between the neighbouring states were established by the United Nations in 1993, three years after Iraq under Saddam Hussain invaded Kuwait.

While Iraqi officials have previously expressed a readiness to recognise Kuwait’s land border, the maritime border remains a point of contention.

Baghdad insists that the delineation should provide it unhindered access to Gulf waters, a lifeline for its economy and oil exports.

Because of the long-standing dispute, Kuwaiti coastguards regularly detain Iraqi fishermen and seize their vessels for entering Kuwaiti territorial waters “illegally”.

After meeting his Kuwaiti counterpart Salem Al Sabah in Baghdad on Sunday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussain said that during their talks “the emphasis was placed on resolving the border issues”.

He told reporters the border talks would “continue through various technical committees”.

Baghdad will host a meeting of a legal committee relating to the talks on August 14.

Sabah said there was “complete consensus” between Kuwait and Iraq to “resolve outstanding problems between the two countries, particularly the demarcation of maritime boundaries”.

Iraq’s government under Prime Minister Mohammad Shia Al Sudani, who was appointed by pro-Iran parties, is seeking closer ties with Arab Gulf monarchies, aiming to strengthen regional economic cooperation and counter the flow of narcotics.

In 2021, Baghdad made the final payment of war reparations totalling more than $52 billion to its neighbour.

Saddam’s forces entered oil-rich Kuwait in August 1990 and annexed it before being driven out seven months later by an international coalition led by the United States