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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Kuwait's closer links to US lead to stronger governance 

Following up on the US-Kuwait Strategic Dialogue, both countries signed agreements on improving education, military, cyber security and transportation ties

Kuwait's foreign minister Sheikh Sabah Al Khaled shakes hands with US secretary of state Rex Tillerson during the US-Kuwait Strategic Dialogue at the State Department in Washington on September 8, 2017. Jacquelyn Martin / AP
Kuwait's foreign minister Sheikh Sabah Al Khaled shakes hands with US secretary of state Rex Tillerson during the US-Kuwait Strategic Dialogue at the State Department in Washington on September 8, 2017. Jacquelyn Martin / AP

The foreign minister of Kuwait and his American counterpart elaborated on a 25-year road map that is likely to bring the two countries closer than ever before and improve Kuwaiti standards of governance.

In this, the second round of the US-Kuwait Strategic Dialogue - which started in October 2016 - foreign minister Sheikh Sabah Al Khaled announced the signing of 17 new bilateral accords including a novel counter terrorism information sharing agreement that is aimed at fighting extremism in the region.

The foreign minister appeared with US secretary of state Rex Tillerson in a joint conference on Saturday to announce that both countries aim to increase bilateral relations to an unprecedented level. The meetings began last week upon the arrival in Washington of Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed, emir of Kuwait, who headed a delegation comprised of ministers, army officials, and businessmen from Kuwait.

As part of the deal, the Kuwaiti director general of customs, who was present at the day-long meeting on Friday morning, signed a disclosure agreement with the American Customs and Border Patrol to share customs information.

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It is thought that the two countries will develop an integrated system and also work on bringing the outdated Kuwait International Airport up to par with international standards of security.

“We signed the arrangement to fight terrorism and share information in that context and also to have cooperation to address the security holes in Kuwait International Airport,” said Sheikh Sabah Al Khaled, minister of foreign affairs and deputy prime minister of Kuwait.

The Kuwaiti foreign minister and Mr Tillerson said they will continue improving security arrangements in the passenger terminals at Kuwait International Airport and create an office for American Customs and American Border Security.

A source at Kuwait International Airport said this was probably the first step in implementing the pre-clearance security requirement, that will see US-bound travellers from Kuwait International Airport go through American customs before boarding, just as they do at UAE international airports.

The two officials also agreed to work closely on counter-terrorism by enhancing Kuwait’s military capabilities and sharing intelligence.

“FBI director Wray and Minister of Interior Khaled signed a counter-terrorism information-sharing arrangement which will strengthen our fight against terrorism,” said Mr Tillerson in Washington.

The two countries are expected to discuss improving Kuwait’s cyber security in the third round of talks on the strategic partnership, which is expected to take place early next year, a source from the Kuwaiti minister of foreign affairs told The National.

Kuwait's finance minister Anas Al Saleh met with the American commerce secretary and a coalition of Kuwaiti and American businessmen to discuss mutual investment and increasing bilateral trade.

They announced that Kuwaiti investments in the US amounted to more than $400 billion (Dh1.46 trillion) with trade averaging $4bn a year, according to Sheikh Sabah Al Khaled.

On the education side, the two countries set up plans to significantly increase the number of Kuwaitis studying in American universities from the current figure of 15,000.

Kuwait was the first Gulf country to begin a scholarship programme in the United States, sending the first batch of students in 1946. The highest proportion of Kuwaiti students abroad study at American colleges.

“Well, we have thousands of Kuwaiti citizens studying in the US universities. And since our last round of this dialogue, we have increased the number of Kuwaitis coming to study in the US,” said Sheikh Sabah Al Khaled.

Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, the emir of Kuwait, and US president Donald Trump held meetings over the weekend in which they are believed to have discussed the Qatar situation.

“The United States and Kuwait both recognise the importance of GCC unity to meet the challenges of the region that we all face together, not the least of which are the threats from Iran,” said Mr Tillerson.

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