x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Kuwait go-ahead on Mubarak port infuriates Iraq

Kuwait's planned Mubarak port has caused another wave of tension between the country and Iraq.

The Iraqi parliament plans to reconvene next month to discuss a planned US$1.1 billion (Dh4.04bn) Kuwaiti port project that has become a bone of contention between the two countries.

Kuwait last week laid the foundation stone to begin the construction of the Mubarak port, just over the border from the site of an Iraqi port being built close to Umm Qasr. The close proximity of the two port developments has angered Iraqi politicians and legislators, who have pledged to take action against the Kuwaiti government over the rival project.

"It was very surprising and disappointing to us," said Nasser al Bandar, the manager of the aviation department at the transport ministry in Baghdad. "We all had no idea of their plans."

The Mubarak project, to be built on Boubyan Island, is expected to be completed by 2016. Analysts said the Mubarak development could eat into as much as 60 per cent of existing Iraqi port traffic.

"It cannot be an innocent project; it will prevent Iraq from having any viable access to the sea," said Dr Mustafa Alani, the programme director at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai.

Iraq is spending $1.6bn on its port, which is located on the Al-Faw peninsula, in an effort to modernise public infrastructure and jump-start its economy now that major new oil contracts have been signed.

The port city of Basra has called on the Iraqi government to stop Kuwait.

halsayegh@thenational.ae