AMMAN (Dow Jones)–The Iraqi government has officially asked Kuwait to stop work on the Mubarak Al Kabeer being built on the northern tip of the Persian Gulf, saying it would block Iraq’s access to the sea, an Iraqi government spokesman said in a statement Wednesday.
“The Iraqi government has asked the Kuwaiti side to stop work in building Mubarak port until we are assured that Iraq’s rights to sail and navigate in the jointly-shared waterway won’t be affected,” Ali Al Dabbagh, who is also a cabinet minister, said.
Iraqi officials and politicians have voiced their rejection of building the port, saying it would threaten Iraq’s shipping lanes through the narrow Khor Abdullah waterway.
Iraq exports some 1.8 million barrels of oil a day through two Persian Gulf loading terminals, Basra and Khor al-Amyah, and the Um Qasr and Zubair commercial ports are used to import most of the country’s goods and commodities.
Kuwait had announced last April the beginning of work to construct the Mubarak Port one year after Iraq’s announcement of its intention to build a grand port at Faw at the Gulf mouth. A South Korean consortium led by Hyundai Corp. (011760.SE ) begun work at the $1.1 billion Mubarak port on Boubyan Island in May this year.
Kuwaiti officials have said the emirate would go ahead with its plans to build the facility despite concerns raised by Baghdad and that the port would be commenced as planned in March 2016.
Hadi al-Amiri, Iraq’s transport minister was quoted as saying earlier this month that the construction of the port “demonstrates a clear intention by Kuwait to block shipping lanes from Iraqi ports and violates U.N. resolutions. We say we will not accept that Basra and Iraq be strangled in any way.”
A dispute between Baghdad and Kuwait in the 1980s over their shared borders and the right of each other to produce oil from a shared oil field was a factor in Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
The United Nations Boundary Commission demarcated borders between Iraq and Kuwait after the first U.S.-led Gulf War in 1991 which ejected Iraqi troops out of Kuwait. The maritime border runs down the middle of Khor Abdullah waterway.
-By Hassan Hafidh; Dow Jones Newswires