Kuwaiti PM visits Baghdad for the first time since Gulf war
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki embraced his Kuwaiti counterpart with kisses on both cheeks, a marked departure from the hostile relations both countries seek to put behind them.
Iraq rolled out the red carpet on Wednesday for a historic visit by the Kuwaiti prime minister, the first high-level Kuwaiti official to travel to Baghdad since Saddam Hussein’s regime invaded the neighboring emirate two decades ago.Skip to next paragraph
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Kuwaiti prime minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah stepped onto the airport tarmac and exchanged an embrace and kisses on both cheeks from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki before climbing into an armored vehicle for the drive to the Green Zone.
A military honor guard greeted the Kuwaiti delegation, dressed in flowing robes and headdresses, while a band played the Kuwaiti and Iraqi national anthems.
The image stood in marked contrast to Hussein’s Iraq, which in 1991 invaded the emirate after a series of oil disputes and then annexed it as Iraq’s 19th province.
20 years after the Gulf war rescued Kuwait
A US-led coalition drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait 20 years ago next week after the deposed and later executed Iraqi leader rejected a United Nations ultimatum to withdraw. After Kuwait backed Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war of 1980 to 1988, relations between the two soured over Iraq’s debts to oil-rich Kuwait.
But the animosity between the tiny, privileged emirate and its huge, powerful neighbor runs even deeper.
At one of the last Arab summits before the US-led Iraq war, at a meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in March 2003, then Iraqi vice president Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri threw the summit into an uproar by calling a Kuwaiti cabinet minister a monkey. Although the invasion is believed by most Iraqis to have been wrong, as well as a serious blunder, many here believe the Kuwaitis were engaging in economic warfare against them.
A new Iraq that won't threaten its neighbors
While relations between the two countries are still far from warm, the Iraqi government has gone to great lengths to show that this is a new Iraq – one that will never again threaten its neighbors.
Although Iraq’s Arab neighbors still view the country and its Shiite-led government with suspicion, the drawing down of US forces and a new Iraqi government that includes more Sunnis has led to improved relations within the region.
Neither the Kuwaiti prime minister nor his Iraqi counterpart spoke publicly Wednesday, but Kuwaiti foreign minister Sheikh Mohammad al-Sabah and the Iraqi foreign minister said in a statement that the two countries were committed to settling their differences.