KUWAIT CITY, Feb 14, (Agencies): His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah congratulated the Iraqi people on victory achieved and that led to the defeat of the so-called Islamic State (IS) and banishing it from most of its soil. His Highness’ remark came during the official inauguration of the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq (KICRI) on Wednesday.

The significant level of participation in this Conference, either government, civil or private, came as a global recognition of the magnitude of sacrifices by Iraq in its fight against terrorism, His Highness noted, pointing out that the international community sough to reward these sacrifices that turned lives of Iraqis in IS-controlled areas into a “living hell”.

Results of this Conference are a continuation of all “our” efforts, His Highness said. “Yet, we should not neglect the suffering of our brothers in Syria and Yemen due to the ongoing conflicts taking place there, but we are confident that we and the international community will support them as soon as security and stability are restored.” His Highness added that the magnitude of destruction inflicted on Iraq by terrorist groups could not be overlooked, which requires Iraq to embark on an inclusive reconstruction process that would cover infrastructure and other public utilities; a task that cannot be endured by Iraq alone, and a matter that urged “us” to call on the international community to partake and shoulder its responsibility.

“In light of our realization of such consequences, we considered the vital role of the private sector in reinvigorating the investment environment in Iraq. Last night, more than 2,000 businesses from the private sector came to examine investment opportunities in Iraq. Also, non-governmental organizations contributed in lessening suffering of the Iraqi people.” His Highness, during the speech, extended appreciation to Iraq, the United Nations, the European Union and the World Bank, all as co-chairs of KICRI, along with the host country. His Highness concluded by announcing a $1 billion in loans to Iraq through Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, as well as another $1 billion in investments in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Kuwait Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah said Wednesday that total contributions by countries participating in Kuwait International Conference on Reconstruction of Iraq (KICRI) reached $30 billion. Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled said, in his speech at the closing session of ministerial meeting, that this amount came as result of a broad momentum that came from 76 participating countries, along with 51 international development funds, 107 local and international NGOs, in addition to 1,850 representatives from the private sector.

Meanwhile, Abdullah Al-Maatouq, chairman of the International Islamic Charity Organization (IICO) said the number of pledges at the NGO Conference to Support the Humanitarian Situation in Iraq has reached $337 million. Al-Maatouq, made this announcement in his capacity as a representative of the NGO meetings at the closing session of the Ministerial Meeting of KICRI, during which he reviewed the results of NGOs conference. Al-Maatouq added that these pledges will be in accordance with humanitarian and development programs in Iraq, especially in areas affected by armed conflicts there, which will be distributed in the areas of health, housing, education, rehabilitation and other humanitarian fields. IICO chief noted that participants from all parties stressed importance on the need to respond to the humanitarian situation in the areas affected by the armed conflicts and on establishing a mechanism to follow up on the execution of these programs through periodic meetings and follow-up reports.

On another front, Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) Abdulwahab Al-Bader said that the estimated amount needed for Iraq’s reconstruction is estimated at $88 billion, adding that the current estimated losses due to war in Iraq has reached $46 billion. Al-Bader said, as a representative of the private sector meetings in the closing session, that the “high-level experts meeting for the reconstruction of Iraq and the role of financial institutions” was held in the presence of about 420 individuals from various financial institutions, investment companies from different countries around the world. Al-Bader added participants underlined the importance of supporting reform programs in Iraq, for the purpose of reconstruction, in addition to enhancing the social aspect in different regions of Iraq, and to brief various development institutions on the reconstruction process.

Finally, the President of Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) Abdulwahab Al-Wazan said that Kuwait’s private sector position coincide precisely with the State of Kuwait position in supporting Iraq. Al-Wazan added such position by KCCI would also contribute to efforts exerted for developmental projects in Iraq to the point of reaching a comprehensive viable developmental partnership based on good neighboring and joint interests. KCCI chief added that the private sector is cooperating with the Iraqi side, which he described the role as permanent and continuous, and will not end when the conference ends, but will continue with investment projects. KICRI kicked off last Monday and concluded today with participating countries, regional and international organizations.

The biggest pledge at the gathering in Kuwait came from Turkey, which announced $5 billion in credit to Iraq. Qatar, which is embroiled in a diplomatic crisis with a quartet of Arab nations led by Riyadh, pledged $1 billion. The United Arab Emirates pledged $500 million, as did the Islamic Development Bank. Germany pledged 500 million euros ($617 million) and the European Union 400 million euros ($494 million).

The United States, which has been embroiled in Iraq since its 2003 invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, did not directly give at the conference Wednesday in Kuwait City. However, it plans to offer over $3 billion in loans and other financing to help American firms invest in Iraq. Kuwait’s donation particularly was in many ways stunning as only a generation ago, Saddam Hussein invaded the country.

The donation by HH the Amir showed the deep interest his nation has in making sure Iraq becomes a peaceful, stable country after the war against IS. Iraq also still owes Kuwait reparations from Saddam’s 1990 invasion that sparked the 1991 US-led Gulf War. Of the money needed, Iraqi officials estimate that $17 billion alone needs to go toward rebuilding homes, the biggest single line item offered Monday, on the first day of meetings. The United Nations estimates 40,000 homes need to be rebuilt in Mosul alone.

The war against the Islamic State group displaced more than 5 million people in Iraq, only half of whom have returned to their hometowns. However, officials acknowledge a feeling of fatigue from international donors, especially after the wars in Iraq and Syria sparked the biggest mass migration since World War II. Iraq also is OPEC’s second-largest crude producer and home to the world’s fifth-largest known reserves, though it has struggled to pay international firms running them. The United States under President Donald Trump also seems uninterested in directly investing in Iraq’s reconstruction.

The US alone spent $60 billion over nine years — some $15 million a day — to rebuild Iraq. Around $25 billion went to Iraq’s military, which disintegrated during the lightning 2014 offensive of the Islamic State group, which grew out of al-Qaeda in Iraq. US government auditors also found massive waste and corruption, fueling suspicions of Western politicians like Trump who want to scale back foreign aid. Meanwhile, regional tensions may affect how spending comes. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attended the meeting, but skipped a group photograph held before. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations attending Wednesday’s conference remain suspicious of Iran’s influence in Iraq, as well as its gains following the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Qatar, meanwhile, remains boycotted by four Arab nations, including three in the Gulf, which has split the typically clubby relations among the nations. For his part, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi urged all his country’s neighbors to contribute. “We need to rely on all our neighbors and friends to help Iraq invest in its future,” he said.

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