PA leader makes 1st Kuwait visit in 20 years

Abbas makes first visit since rift developed when Yasser Arafat was thought to back Hussein in 1st Gulf War.

By REUTERS
April 15, 2013 19:01
1 minute read.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas,  Kuwaiti Deputy PM Sheikh Sabah al Khalid al-Sabah.

Abbas in Kuwait370. (photo credit: Reuters)

KUWAIT - Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made the first visit of a Palestinian leader to Kuwait for more than two decades on Monday, cementing ties soured by late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's failure to denounce Iraq's 1990 invasion of the Gulf state.

Abbas, due to attend the opening a Palestinian embassy in Kuwait, is trying to rally support in the face of deadlocked peace talks with Israel amid differences over Jewish settlement building in the West Bank. 

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Kuwait was an important supporter and funder of Arafat, who launched his Fatah movement while working in the oil-producing Arab state in 1964. But ties were broken over Arafat's perceived sympathy for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's decision to occupy his small neighbor.

Arafat said at the time he did not support the invasion but rather objected to the use of force against Iraq, seeking instead a political solution for the crisis.

After the war hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were coerced into leaving or expelled outright amid hostility from Kuwaitis who suspected them of disloyalty. The conflict ended when US-led forces drove out Iraqi troops in 1991.

Abbas was scheduled to inaugurate the embassy in Kuwait city, ending a long process of restoring ties with Kuwait that began in 2001, when Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee member Faisal al-Husseini visited the country.

In 2003, Kuwait snubbed Abbas, then prime minister to Arafat, putting off a visit because he would not apologize for the Palestinian Authority president's stand during the invasion, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported at the time.


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