Baghdad called on Kuwait Wednesday to suspend work on a controversial megaport until Iraq is assured its shipping lanes will not be squeezed by the project.
The $1.1 billion (778 million euro) facility, on Kuwait’s Bubiyan Island, is scheduled for completion in 2016. Baghdad fears that the Mubarak port will compete with its own Faw port, and “strangle” shipping routes to and from Iraq.
“The Iraqi government asks the Kuwaiti side to stop work on the Mubarak port until we are assured that Iraqi shipping lanes, and free and safe navigation, will not be affected,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement.
“There is no information and data to assure the Iraqi government that its navigation interests will not be damaged” by the project, the statement said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on July 15 that Kuwait had yet to notify Baghdad officially of the Mubarak project. He said Baghdad only learned about it from third parties.
Iraqi Transport Minister Hadi al-Amari had early this month urged Kuwait to stop work on the port which he said would block Iraqi access to shipping lanes from its southern ports in Basra.
“We say we will not accept that Basra and Iraq be strangled in any way,” the minister said in an angry statement.
The Mubarak port is being built by a consortium led by South Korea’s Hyundai.
The Gulf is the main export outlet for Iraqi oil, which accounts for the lion’s share of the country’s revenues, and Baghdad has started major work to modernise its outdated ports.