Emir scores diplomatic coup

KUWAIT — Hours after Qatar’s emir abdicated in favour of his son, Kuwait’s ruler jumped on a plane to Doha to embrace the new young emir in person rather than sending a congratulatory cable as other Gulf Arab leaders did.

The direct diplomatic gesture was a classic move for Kuwait’s 84-year-old hereditary emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

Sheikh Sabah has been dubbed the “dean of Arab diplomacy” for his efforts to strengthen Kuwait’s relations in the Middle East after Iraq’s 1990 invasion of his country. He spent four decades as foreign minister before becoming emir in 2006.

He sees maintaining good relationships as vital to US ally Kuwait, a small state with huge oil wealth bordered by bigger neighbours Saudi Arabia and Iraq and across the Gulf from Iran.

It is testament to his diplomatic skill that Kuwait is on good terms with all three states, while they have often been at odds with each other.

Kuwait has promised $4 billion in aid to Egypt, which together with contributions from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates makes up a $12 billion Gulf Arab package that shows support for the Egyptian army’s ousting of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi on July 3.

Despite some public unease about rapprochement with former arch-foe Iraq, analysts and diplomats give high marks to Sheikh Sabah for his pragmatic efforts to rebuild ties with Baghdad. (Reuters)

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