Kuwait has approved a $100 million grant for Iraq to support humanitarian and reconstruction projects in areas retaken from Islamic State militants, an Iraqi official said yesterday. The grant is the first Kuwaiti financial assistance to Iraq since Baghdad’s occupation of the state from Aug 1990 to Feb 1991, ordered by then-President Saddam Hussein.
Officials from the two countries signed the grant agreement in Kuwait, a spokeswoman for Iraq’s Reconstruction Fund for Areas Affected by Terrorist Operations said. “The grant agreement signed today is an encouraging start for further future cooperation between Iraq and Kuwait,” the reconstruction fund chief, Mustafa Al-Hiti, said in a statement.
The fund aims to rebuild cities and territories recaptured from Islamic State, the ultra-hardline group which declared a “caliphate” over parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014. The war with Islamic State escalated as crude prices tumbled, curtailing the Iraqi government budget as it relies almost exclusively on oil sales. Saddam was toppled by the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Iraq and Kuwait are now close allies against militants.
Separately, countries around the world pledged more than one billion dollars to help prevent a looming famine in war-torn Yemen at a Geneva conference UN chief Antonio Guterres called a “remarkable success”. Yet the $1.1 billion promised fell far short of the $2.1 billion the United Nations has estimated is needed this year alone in a country facing “a tragedy of immense proportions”. But Guterres praised the generosity of donor nations, pointing out that such conferences generally do not gather more than a third of the requested amount. This shows a “remarkable solidarity with the Yemeni people,” the UN secretary general told reporters.
Kuwait is earmarking $100 million as its contribution towards international relief aid for the Yemeni people. Kuwait’s Deputy Prime Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah, who declared the financial allocation at the conference, indicated that the specialized fund was follow-up to a previous sum of $300 million allotted for the Yemeni people.
The previous amount was in the form of soft loans provided by Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) to finance development projects in Yemen. It was announced during a ministerial meeting of Friends of Yemen held in New York in 2012. Jarallah expressed in his speech a conviction that the ideal solution to the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Yemen required restoration of stability, “a matter that could be attained through political settlement according to the three references and greater effort by the international community, represented by the Security Council”.