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Kuwait reiterates rejection of Israel normalisation

February 18, 2019 at 1:23 pm

Kuwait has reiterated its rejection of Arab countries’ normalisation with Israel, slamming those ministers who met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at last week’s Warsaw Conference.

In a press statement yesterday, the Speaker of Kuwait’s National Assembly Marzouq Al-Ghanim affirmed Kuwait’s “principled and firm position” against normalisation with Israel, stressing it was one of few Arab countries that had not acquiesced to building ties with Israel.

Al-Ghanim said he “wish[ed] there wasn’t a picture of any Arab or Kuwaiti official with any official of [Israel],” responding to allegations that the presence of a Kuwaiti official in a group photo of conference attendees signalled a change in his country’s stance towards Israel.

Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah echoed Al-Ghanim’s stance, saying that “those who believe that the group picture at the Warsaw Conference signified a change in Kuwait’s attitude towards Israel are under [an] illusion and they are mistaken to think that normalisation can be reduced to a group picture”.

Al-Ghanim added that high profile Kuwaiti officials will be invited to a meeting of the country’s Foreign Affairs Committee to discuss the repercussions of the Warsaw Conference.

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The Warsaw Conference, which took place in the Polish capital last week, was seen by many as an opportunity for Netanyahu to boast of warming relations between Israel and Arab states ahead of the upcoming Israeli general election on 9 April. Though Netanyahu has previously engaged in a number of overt meetings with Arab and Muslim leaders as part of his normalisation drive – including meeting the Sultan of Oman and President of Chad, as well as dispatching senior Israeli officials to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain – many states have been reluctant to conduct these relations openly.

However, last week’s conference saw a number of high profile Arab officials share a stage with Netanyahu, with several even expressing notably pro-Israel opinions. Speaking about Israeli airstrikes in Syria, the UAE’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayid Al-Nahyan said: “Any state has the right to defend itself when it faces challenges.”

Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa also raised eyebrows, saying that facing the “Iranian threat” is “more dangerous and important than the Palestinian cause at the moment”. In a video that was briefly uploaded to Netanyahu’s official YouTube channel before being quickly deleted, Al-Khalifa could be heard saying: “We have grown up saying that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the most important issue […] but [recently] we have seen a greater challenge, the most serious in our modern history – the threat of the Iranian Republic.”

For its part, Kuwait has remained ardent in its opposition to normalisation. In January, Al-Jarallah said that his country has no intention of normalising relations with Israel, adding: “The Kuwaiti stance has been clear since His Highness the late Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmed [the Emir of Kuwait until his death in 2006] announced it – Kuwait will be the last country to normalise [relations] with Israel.”

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