Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets Kuwait's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah al Khalid al Sabah in Ramallah, September 14.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Kuwait’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Sabah Al-Hamad al-Sabah, met in Ramallah on Sunday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and prayed at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
The Kuwaiti official arrived in Ramallah earlier in the day in the first visit of its kind to the West Bank since 1967.
Palestinians and Kuwaitis hailed the visit as “historic” and expressed hope that it would lead to an improvement in their relations.
Relations between the Palestinians and Kuwait were strained after the PLO and its former leader, Yasser Arafat, came out in support of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of the oil-rich emirate in 1990.
After US-led coalition forces liberated Kuwait a year later, the Kuwaitis, along with other Gulf countries, expelled tens of thousands of Palestinians in retaliation for the PLO’s support for Saddam Hussein.
“This is a truly historic visit,” PA Foreign Minister Riad Al-Malki told reporters in Ramallah.
He said that Abbas discussed with the Kuwaiti guest ways of “developing bilateral relations” and opening a new page in ties between the two sides.
The PA minister said that the two sides agreed to form a joint ministerial committee to discuss ways of boosting their relations. The first meeting of the committee will take place in the Palestinian territories, he added.
Malki said that the PA and Kuwait also agreed to coordinate political moves through a joint committee.
During the meeting, Abbas and his aides sought Kuwait’s backing for the PA president’s new “political initiative” to establish a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines in no more than three years.
The Kuwaiti official also visited east Jerusalem, where he prayed at Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Heads of the Islamic Wakf [Trust] department and representatives of the PA, including Jerusalem Affairs Minister Adnan Husseini, accompanied the guest during his visit to the mosque and tour of the Temple Mount.
Although his entry into Jerusalem had been coordinated with Israel, no representative of the Israeli government or Jerusalem Municipality was invited to meet with the Kuwaiti foreign minister.
An Israeli official said the visit shows that relations between the government and the Wakf are not as strained as people imagine.
A second Israeli official said that since Six-Day War in 1967, the holy sites have been open to “pilgrims of all faiths. When an Arab leader wants to pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque we will facilitate that.”
Israel does not have relations with Kuwait and the foreign minister’s visit to the West Bank and east Jerusalem was about his relations with the PA.
Still Israel viewed the visit of Kuwait’s Foreign Minister is part of the realignment that is occurring in the Middle East, which has created an atmosphere in the region that is more conducive to this sort of visit.
The fact that the foreign minister came to the Temple Mount could occur because there is new view of Israel as a force of stability against Islamic extremists in the region such as Iran, Hizbullah and ISIS, an Israeli official said.