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Kuwait's new emir makes first foreign trip to Saudi Arabia

By AFP

January 31, 2024 02:51 PM


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Kuwait's new emir travelled to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for his first foreign trip since taking power, Saudi state media reported, a customary stop underscoring deep ties between the Gulf oil suppliers.

Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, who is 83, was sworn in last month following the death of his predecessor and half-brother, Sheikh Nawaf.

He is faced with the task of overcoming longstanding political paralysis and reforming a bloated public sector.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 38-year-old de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, greeted Sheikh Meshal at the airport in Riyadh as trumpets played, 21 rounds were fired and the Saudi Falcons, the air force's aerobatics team, put on an air show, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

State media also showed Sheikh Meshal meeting Prince Mohammed's father, King Salman.

Sheikh Meshal and Prince Mohammed discussed "the latest developments in regional and international events and efforts made in this regard", SPA said, without elaborating.

Both countries have refused to recognise Israel, though Saudi Arabia was considering doing so before Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel triggered a withering Israeli military response.

"Kuwait's foreign policy is very much aligned with Saudi Arabia," said Bader al-Saif of Kuwait University.

"This alignment will only grow stronger under Sheikh Meshal," he added, noting that the Kuwaiti leader made a number of visits to Saudi Arabia while serving as crown prince.

Kuwait, which borders Saudi Arabia and Iraq, is home to seven percent of the world's crude reserves. It has little debt and one of the strongest sovereign wealth funds in the world.

However, it suffers from constant disputes between elected lawmakers and cabinets installed by the ruling Al-Sabah family, which maintains a strong grip over political life, despite a relatively robust parliamentary system in place since 1962.

The deadlocks have prevented lawmakers from passing reforms to diversify the economy, while repeated budget deficits and low foreign investment have added to the sense of crisis.

Under Prince Mohammed's Vision 2030 agenda, Saudi Arabia has seen dramatic changes to social and economic policy intended to prepare the Gulf kingdom for an eventual post-oil future.

Such reforms are the envy of many Kuwaitis, Saif said.

"Many Kuwaitis look at Saudi's quick domestic transformation with admiration and want to see elements of it in their country," he said.


AFP


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