Kuwaiti emir Sheikh Sabah to meet Trump in Washington

The visit next month comes as the US administration throws its weight behind Kuwait’s mediation in the Qatar crisis

Sheikh Sabah, the emir of Kuwait visited US president Donald Trump last year to discuss the Qatar crisis. Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
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The Kuwaiti emir will visit Donald Trump next month to discuss the Qatar crisis, in which Sheikh Sabah has been leading mediation efforts.

The trip to Washington on September 6 will be Sheikh Sabah’s fourth since he became the emir in 2006, and comes as the US administration is throwing its weight behind Kuwait’s mediation in the “intra-GCC political dispute,” Lawrence Silverman, the US Ambassador to the country, said.

The emir's visit is a result of discussions between Sheikh Sabah and Mr Trump in February, and during the Riyadh Summit in May, Mr Silverman said.

"That was the genesis of the idea of having His Highness visit Washington and focus on the bilateral relationship, but of course also on regional issues that concern both of us.


Qatar crisis

Kuwait envoys deliver letters to UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Egypt over Qatar crisis

Explainer: What you need to know about the Qatar crisis


Kuwait this week renewed its mediation efforts, sending royal envoys, the foreign minister, Sheikh Sabah Al Khaled and Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, minister of state for cabinet affairs to the countries involved in the dispute.

The pair met Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim on Wednesday, after earlier travelling to Oman and the four boycotting countries – the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt – to deliver a hand-written letter from the Emir of Kuwait.

The letter believed to be urging both sides to engage in direct dialogue.

Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, met with the the emir’s royal envoy on Tuesday along with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.

The end of the crisis will come only if Doha displays “bravery” in addressing its neighbours’ issues, Dr Gargash a day after the letter was handed over.

“Qatar’s crisis is with its neighbours and surroundings. The solution is by addressing these grievances and realities, the solution will not come through external pressures. The solution is in the bravery in facing the crisis,” he said on Twitter.

Both sides have expressed willingness to engage in direct negotiations, something that has not happened since the row broke out on June 5, when the quartet severed diplomatic, travel and trade ties with Doha over its support for extremist groups.

But Qatar says talks could only take place after the four countries lift their boycott and the quartet of countries say Qatar must comply with 13 demands before a resolution can be found.

Qatar is also preparing for the crisis to continue in the longer term, with a series of measures to try and soften the blow from the boycott.

On Wednesday, Doha issued a new order allowing visa-free travel for 80 countries and last week it announced that some foreigners could acquire permanent residency.

Kuwait’s previous mediation efforts have failed to make progress despite backing from the US and Europe.

According to an American diplomat, secretary of state Rex Tillerson will meet with his counterpart, foreign minister Sheikh Sabah Al Khaled to discuss American commitment to Kuwait's security and a joint fight against terrorism and its financing.

The mission accompanying the emir is believed to include education and finance ministers and other heads of state.

The diplomat said the Americans will look to increase trade but also educational cooperation “a fundamental part of our relationship, with five generation of Kuwaitis who have studied in American universities and colleges.”

US-Kuwaiti trade amounts to around US$15 billion (Dh55bn) annually.

"The meeting will also look to progress what is known as “The Strategic Dialogue” a meeting first held last October in Washington, which looks at strengthening bilateral relations over the next 25 years.

Washington has bolstered Kuwait's mediation in the Qatar crisis by sending the former Centcomm commander, Anthony Zinni, to tour the region in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

“We want to see an end to this dispute as quickly as possible, for the sake of the region,” Mr Silverman told the Kuwait state news agency Kuna after the retired general’s visit.

Mr Zinni is scheduled to visit Jeddah, Manama, the UAE and Cairo in addition to Doha.