Kuwait Hails End of Iraq 'Dark Phase', Urges Syria to Halt Violence

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Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah was in Baghdad on Thursday for a landmark Arab summit, in the first visit by a Kuwaiti head of state to Iraq since Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion.

At the opening of the summit, the emir called on Syria to listen to reason and cooperate with U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

He urged Damascus to "listen to the language of reason and wisdom and end all sorts of violence against its people," saying that "prolonging the crisis in Syria will only make it more complicated."

He also urged the government of President Bashar al-Assad to "cooperate effectively" with Annan's efforts.

Annan's plan calls for a commitment to stop all armed violence, a daily two-hour humanitarian ceasefire and media access to areas affected by the fighting, which has killed almost 10,000 people according to monitors.

The plan also calls for an inclusive Syrian-led political process, the right to demonstrate and the release of people detained arbitrarily.

Syria has accepted a proposal crafted by Annan to end the bloodshed in the country, although Western states have expressed skepticism about the Damascus regime's sincerity.

Sheikh Sabah’s landmark visit is the first by a Kuwaiti head of state to Iraq since Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion.

Footage broadcast on Iraqiya state television showed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Kuwaiti leader walking hand in hand down a red carpet at Baghdad airport.

Maliki visited Kuwait earlier this month.

"I express my happiness since my foot stepped onto the land of the friend Iraq, after it gained back its freedom, dignity and democracy after a dark phase," Sabah said in a speech to Arab leaders in the former Republican Palace in Baghdad.

"Hosting the summit in Baghdad is a plus for our joint Arab world."

Saddam ordered his forces into Kuwait in 1990, only to have them routed by an international coalition in 1991. He was eventually ousted from power in 2003 following a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The Arab summit on Thursday is the first such meeting to be held in Iraq since the 1990 incursion. Including the emir, nine Arab heads of state have arrived in Baghdad for the meeting.

Baghdad is still paying five percent of oil revenue in reparations to Kuwait for the invasion, which turned Iraq into an international pariah after it had been backed by various Western and Gulf countries in its 1980-1988 war with Iran.

Along with the reparations, the two sides have a bevy of outstanding issues that remain unresolved.

Among them is the Mubarak al-Kabir port project, which was begun by Kuwait in 2007, and which Baghdad claims would strangle its shipping lanes, crucial for Iraq's oil exports.

U.N. envoys are also looking for greater progress in helping pin down the fate of Kuwaitis and other foreigners missing since the 1990 war. Property and parts of the Kuwaiti national archives also remain missing.

In addition, there are still border issues between the two countries.

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