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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Kuwait Emir to meet Trump ahead of Geneva talks on Yemen 

Kuwait is one of Washington's largest trade markets in the Middle East 

US President Donald Trump welcomes Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, at the White House in Washington in September 2017. Reuters
US President Donald Trump welcomes Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, at the White House in Washington in September 2017. Reuters

President Donald Trump and the emir of Kuwait will meet at the White House ahead of planned Yemen peace talks in Geneva.

The White House says Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, the emir of the US-allied nation, will be welcomed to the White House for a working visit on Sept. 5.

The 89-year-old ruler of the oil-rich nation is leading a Kuwaiti delegation to the U.S. to discuss trade, investment and security cooperation.

The trip to Washington 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 earlier this year.

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.

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The two countries have close military and economic relations and Kuwait allowed Washington to launch operations in 2003 against the regime of Saddam Hussain in Iraq from their territory. Kuwait is also a member of the US-led coalition against ISIS. Kuwait is also one of the US’s largest trade markets in the Middle East, according to the State Department and is valued at around US $15 billion (Dh55bn) annually.

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.”

"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,” the diplomat previously told The National.

There was no confirmation on whether the peace talks in Geneva are on the schedule for the meet but on September 6 various actors operating in Yemen, as well as both the internationally recognised government and representatives of Houthi rebels, will attend the talks in the Swiss capital.

The meet will be the most serious UN-sponsored effort to reach a resolution in nearly two years but few analysts or experts expect major breakthroughs. The best case scenario, they say, is an agreement for more talks.

UN special envoy Martin Griffiths will mediate between the Yemeni government and Iran-backed Houthi rebels who are not expected actually meet face-to-face. As such, it will follow a similar pattern to the several rounds of Geneva-based Syrian peace talks.

The discussions will primarily focus on the Houthi-held port city of Hodeidah, the disarming of all non-government forces and the release of prisoners on both sides, a government official told The National.

Houthi rebels have asked for political recognition and control over some areas of the country, the official said.

“The two parties are going to discuss and reach a deal on what kind of security forces and how they should be selected under the supervision of the UN,” Yemeni political analyst AbdulKhaliq Al Hood told The National last week.

The Arab coalition, with US and Western backing, intervened in the yearslong conflict in 2015 to support the internationally backed government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi after Houthi rebels seized large parts of the country including the capital of Saana.

Kuwait has played a key role in mediating between the Arab Quartet and Qatar over a boycott due to Doha’s support of terrorism and regional interference. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt suspended travel and trade ties with Qatar last June alleging it was backing Iran and supporting terrorism around the region.

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