Baghdad and Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi wrapped up a one-day visit to the Kuwaiti capital on Sunday, after meeting with the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jabir Al-Sabah, to discuss efforts to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and a proposal for a relief fund for areas of Iraq devastated in the struggle against the organization.
The official Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) said both leaders explored ways to improve “bilateral relations and . . . expand cooperation in all issues important to both countries.”
Abadi also met with his Kuwaiti counterpart, Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah.
A statement from Abadi’s office said on Sunday the talks encompassed “the dangers of extremist groups, especially represented by ISIS’s criminal gangs in Iraq and the region” as well as “the importance of cooperation among the region’s different countries to get rid of ISIS’s deviant ideology due to the grave danger it represents to the region.”
The leaders also discussed “the importance of launching an initiative tasked with setting up a relief fund to help rebuild areas in Iraq freed from ISIS’s control.”
Sheikh Sabah, for his part, said Kuwait was “ready to provide all the needed support for its brotherly neighbor, Iraq.”
Speaking of the fund, Mazhar Mohamed Saleh, an economic adviser to Abadi, told Asharq Al-Awsat the fund could be seen as “being akin to the Marshall Plan [the US-led initiative to help rebuild European economies following the Second World War]; from another, it can be viewed as a relief fund.”
“During this time when we have an international military coalition against ISIS, it is a priority to set up such a fund among the countries involved,” he added.
Proposals for a fund dedicated to rebuilding Iraq go back to a series of meetings in Madrid following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, when the issue of the terrible condition of Iraq’s infrastructure, thanks to years of international sanctions and the US-led invasion, was discussed.
“Back then, we received several promises of support from various donor countries to help rebuild what was destroyed, and we received a total of 54 billion US dollars,” Saleh said.
He believed the fund was necessary because the level of destruction of the country’s infrastructure had now reached “unimaginable levels” in five of the country’s provinces where ISIS has a presence.
He added that the response from to calls by the Iraqi government for launching the fund had “so far been very positive” from both regional and other countries.
Abadi’s government, which came to power in September, has sought to improve relations with the country’s neighbors, some of whom were angered by what they saw as sectarian policies of his controversial predecessor, Nuri Al-Maliki.
Relations between Iraq and Kuwait have improved markedly since the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq during the presidency of Saddam Hussein.
Iraq is currently mandated to provide Kuwait with compensation for the invasion. Saleh said the latest payment had been delayed until 2016, adding that Iraq preferred to make investments in Kuwait instead, as this would help “deepen bilateral relations between both countries.”
Dalshad Abdullah contributed reporting from Erbil.