Arch-foes Iraq and Kuwait gave a rare show of unity Tuesday, March 27, when they threw their full support behind the Palestinian uprising against Israel at an Arab summit in Jordan, but remained bitterly divided in their bilateral ties.
Despite intensive top-level diplomacy and arduous consultations, Iraq was still refusing to accept the terms of a three-point draft resolution on its ties with Kuwait, which the emirate had endorsed.
"What has been proposed until now is not acceptable," Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz told reporters at the end of the first day of an ordinary summit — the first since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Aziz said however that consultations would continue on Wednesday.
An Arab minister told AFP that 12 countries were involved since Friday in drafting a resolution acceptable to Iraq and Kuwait. "Efforts were made since Friday, and to this minute, to persuade Iraq to accept it but to no avail," the minister, adding that Kuwait accepted the document.
The draft calls for the implementation of the Arab League's charter concerning the respect of regional security and the sovereignty of each Arab country over its territory and upholds the principle of non-interference, and the non-use of force.
It affirms the independence and territorial integrity of both Kuwait and Iraq and calls on Iraq to put an end to any activity undermining Kuwaiti security, particularly military action. The document also urges Iraq to comply fully with UN Security Council Resolutions for a speedy solution to the issue of Kuwaiti prisoners.
The draft's second point calls for an end to pending issues concerning weapons of mass destruction through negotiations to be conducted between Iraq and the United Nations.
The third point calls for a lifting of UN sanctions imposed on Iraq since its invasion of Kuwait in 1990; the adoption of steps to resume commercial flights to and from Iraq and calls for cooperation on the issue of Iraqis missing since the US-led 1991 Gulf war to liberate Kuwait.
"Despite all the mediation undertaken by the Arab leaders for the sake of the Arab nation and the sake of Iraq, Baghdad has unfortunately rejected the resolution," the minister said.
Iraq has been demanding that the first ordinary Arab summit that convenes since Baghdad's invasion of Kuwait, adopt a resolution to unilaterally lift the UN sanctions, including an end to US and British air patrols of its territory. In return Iraq would respect Kuwait's territorial integrity.
Earlier Iraq urged Arab states to mobilize their armed forces to end Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories while Kuwait exhorted them to rally around the Palestinian uprising against Israel.
But Iraq's number two Ezzat Ibrahim, who issued the call on behalf of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, and Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah who led his country's delegation, did not speak of their crisis.
Arab leaders must raise "an army of men... to shake the occupiers and criminal Zionist invaders," Ibrahim told the summit. "The critical situation of the Palestinian cause compels us to unify and close our ranks so that we can adopt effective resolutions to deal with this painful phase," said Sheikh Sabah.
Earlier Tuesday several officials spoke of signs of progress in the protracted talks with Iraq but conceded that there was no magical solution. "The issue still needs more work to come up with an agreement that everybody is comfortable with," Jordanian Information Minister Taleb Rifai told a press briefing.
"We are not talking about solving the relations between Iraq and Kuwait. We are talking about reaching a formula that satisfies both sides that could help us take one step further," he said. "We are now striving to create a climate of mutual trust to build on what we have achieved in order to take another step in our future meetings," said Rifai, suggesting that a resolution on Iraq could remain elusive.
Defense Minister Prince Sultan Bin Abdel Aziz of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait's main ally, also struck a positive note and told reporters "everything will be resolved. We don't believe in crises."
Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, and the subsequent liberation of the emirate in February 1991 by a US-led coalition of Arab and Western forces, divided Arab ranks and continues to exacerbate tensions.
The Iraqi army in Kuwait destroyed the emirate's infrastructure, set fire to its oil-fields and left the country in a shambles when it was driven out by the US-led coalition. Iraq was punished through the sanctions but more than a decade later their purpose is eroding.
Several Arab countries have organized flights to Baghdad since September, taking the lead from Russia and France, and some resumed diplomatic ties with Iraq, where supporters like high-profile Egyptian actors make regular "solidarity visits". — (AFP, Amman)
by Hala Boncompagni
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)