Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

U.N. Members Scrutinize Iraq-Kuwait Boundary Line

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

U.N. Members Scrutinize Iraq-Kuwait Boundary Line

Article excerpt

U.N. Members Scrutinize Iraq-Kuwait Boundary Line

After puttering along almost unnoticed in the U.S. outside the pages of the Washington Report, the work of the Iraq-Kuwait boundary commission is now getting more intensive international scrutiny. Japan as been trying to persuade Britain and America that the recommendations of the commission should be the subject of a binding Security Council decision.

Resolution 687, the" Mother of All Resolutions," imposing the conditions of Iraq's defeat, called upon the secretary-general to "lend his assistance to make arrangements with Iraq and Kuwait to demarcate the boundary," which was to be based on the 1963 treaty between the two countries.

However, neither Kuwait nor Iraq is proving particularly amenable to assistance, and neither shows overmuch satisfaction with the boundary. In June, Iraq sent a long letter to the Security Council. Half of the letter depicts Kuwait as a figment of British imperialist plots. The other half urges that, if there is to be a new boundary, it should not give existing Iraqi oil wells and port facilities to Kuwait. The letter makes the point strongly. The British map which was supposed to help demarcate the boundary clearly showed as Iraqi territory much of the additional territory now granted by the commission to Kuwait.

Japan, at present a rotating member of the Security Council, has set its sights firmly on joining the Permanent Five within a few years. The boundary issue is one on which it can establish diplomatic credentials, while averting a disruption in its future energy supplies from the region. Although dubious about the overall usefulness of the Iraqi letter, the Japanese seem to think the Iraqis may have a case."The boundary question should be settled by both sides," a Japanese spokesman told the Washington Report. "We are suggesting to the Americans and British that, as the resolution stands, Iraq has the right to challenge the boundary. So we think that the Security Council should hear the thoughts of Iraq, Kuwait, and the boundary commission, and then make a final, binding decision under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter."

Japan is not alone in its interest. The Israeli mission also is showing a great deal of interest in the commission's work. In the past, Israel has leaned toward unstable boundaries contributing to inter-Arab strife. On the other hand, is it possible that Israel now is being farsighted, and anticipating a future U.N. boundary commission demarcating the frontiers of Israel?

Palestinian Right of Return

That thought was rendered a little less farfetched by the State Department's prompted memory that in 1948 the U.S. had voted for, and technically still supports, General Assembly Resolution 194, which, among other things, enshrines the Palestinian "right to return." Passed on Dec. 11, 1948, it resolved that the Palestinian refugees "be permitted to return to their homes at the earliest possible date," and that the Jerusalem area be accorded" special and separate treatment...under effective United Nations control."

Resolution 194 also gave the United States a special role in this process, making the U.S., France and Turkey the Conciliation Commission, to effect peace -- and the U.N. decisions. Four decades later, the commission still exists, and the U.S. is still a member, although its latest annual report does point out diplomatically that "the circumstances that unfortunately have limited its possibilities of action have remained up to now essentially unchanged. …

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