BRUSSELS: European Union High Representative Josep Borrell has praised Kuwait as a close and reliable partner and a voice of moderation in the Gulf region. In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with Kuwait News Agency, KUNA, on Saturday, the EU foreign policy chief spoke on the expanding EU-Kuwait relations, Kuwait’s role for stability in the Gulf region, cooperation to find solutions to end the war in Ukraine, energy cooperation, Iran’s nuclear deal, among other issues.
Borrell has said he is looking forward to the first visit in his capacity as the EU High Representative for foreign affairs and security policy/Vice President of the European Commission to Kuwait. He noted that he had met Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Dr Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah on a number of occasions in the past and was looking forward to see him again.
“This will be already my third meeting with foreign minister Sheikh Ahmad Al-Sabah since the beginning of the year, and our contacts so far and this visit are a confirmation of a very dynamic relationship between the EU and Kuwait,” Borrel said. Kuwait is a close and reliable partner for the EU, Borrel affirmed in the special interview with the Kuwaiti news agency.
“It was the first Gulf country with which we have signed our Cooperation Arrangement in 2016. Since then, our sectoral cooperation has deepened and expanded to a large variety of fields, from trade and investments to research, education, development and humanitarian aid, security and counter-terrorism,” he said. Borrell pointed out that his visit to the Kuwait, along with his mission to Qatar due later today, is taking place “at a crucial time.”
War in Ukraine
“The war in Ukraine represents a defining moment for the whole world and the future of our rules-based international order. The current situation in Ukraine and aggression by Russia makes our partnership with the Gulf even more relevant,” he said. “My visit will offer the opportunity to discuss with Kuwaiti partners on how we can further enhance our engagement, not only on Ukraine and on looking for solutions to stop the war, but also on other pressing regional crises and issues s of mutual interest, such as Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq or on Iran/JCPoA, where we are mindful of our Gulf partners’ concerns and opinions,” said the EU’s foreign policy chief.
Borrell has added that he intends to discuss with his Kuwaiti partners “how we can further enhance our bilateral relations and the region-to-region partnership, and to jointly work to tackle global challenges of today, notably climate change and green energy transition.” Earlier this month, His Highness the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sponsored ceremonial completion of state refiner, Kuwait National Petroleum Company’s (KNPC) multi-billion dollar clean fuels project.
Voice of moderation
Elaborating, Borrel praised Kuwait as a voice of moderation in the region, adding that the Gulf state has already been doing a lot for peace and mediation in the Gulf region and beyond. “We highly value the good offices of the late Amir (Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al-Sabah), played in the (Gulf) region, especially for the resolution of the GCC rift, which was essential for the success of the Al Ula Summit. It also paved the ground to relaunch EU-GCC cooperation,” Borrell said.
He was alluding to the 2021 GCC summit, held in the Saudi resort town of Al Ula, where the GCC leaders made headways in solidifying inter-GCC ranks. He underlined that “our commitment to the UN Charter resonates hardly stronger with any other Arab country than with Kuwait and your country’s principled stance on Russia’s illegal invasion to Ukraine truly set the tone among partners.
This Russian aggression is not only about Ukraine. It violates the rules of international politics and the UN Charter. It is an attack on every independent and sovereign country in the world, making the whole world a more dangerous place and also creating further instability, also in the Middle East,” he warned. Borrell highlighted that the war and its consequences also give the geopolitical ambition of the EU a new impetus and “forces us to think about accelerating energy diversification and transition to renewables, to reduce our energy dependency on Russia.”
“This also opens up a new space for EU-Kuwait cooperation. Here, we encourage Kuwait to play an active role in stabilizing the international oil markets, by increasing production and encourage OPEC members to play their part,” said Borrell a forms foreign minister of Spain. Borrell said the 27-member also wants to further cooperate with well-intentioned partners, including Kuwait, on initiatives that contribute to de-escalation and dialogue in the region.
“The EU is a peace project and we have experience in this field, especially confidence building measures in areas as maritime and nuclear safety, and disaster preparedness and response,” he stated. Regarding ongoing negotiations on the nuclear deal (JCPoA) with Iran, the EU remains firmly convinced that a nuclear agreement would greatly contribute to a strengthening of the overall stability and security in the region and a more positive dynamic, he said.
“When the moment has come and all parties once again comply fully with their obligations, the deal can be the stepping stone to discuss other important issues and the EU is ready and willing to further engage and support in this regard,” he said. On humanitarian aid, the EU’s top-most diplomat said “the EU is the biggest humanitarian and development assistance donor and we are interested to work closely with Kuwait to address humanitarian catastrophes in our regions, the dramatic situation unfolding in Ukraine, but also in other conflicts, notably Yemen, Syria and Palestine.”
Borrell announced on 10 May 10, he will be hosting the 6th international donor conference on Syria in Brussels, “and very much count on Kuwait’s continued generosity.” “We also encourage our friends from Kuwait to support our efforts to ensure sustainable funding to Yemen, which finds itself already in the seventh year of a devastating war, resulting in very dire humanitarian situation.
And also to UNRWA, which will be complementary to our endeavor to reactivate the long overdue Middle East Peace Process,” said Borrell who also served as President of the European Parliament from 2004 to 2007. On trade relations, Borrell said “we are Kuwait’s first import partner and the second biggest trading partner. But we can still do more together as our visions for the future complement each other. We both need to diversify our economies, albeit in a different way.”
“We are eager to jointly work with Kuwait to tackle global challenges, notably climate change. On this, we have seen bold initiatives on green transition in the Gulf recently and hope that Kuwait will follow suit,” said Borrell, an aeronautical engineer and economist by training. “We are ready to engage with your country ahead of COP27, but also to strengthen our cooperation on topics of mutual interest such as clean energy transition, hydrogen and renewable energy.”
On ties with the Gulf countries he said “we intend to enhance our engagement with the Gulf in areas of mutual interest, like for instance, climate change and energy sustainability, peace and stability, and humanitarian assistance.” “Our offer of a stronger and more strategic partnership (with the GCC) will be on the table soon, in the form of a communication that sets out a number of concrete proposals for the EU and GCC to strengthen our cooperation. We intend to publish this strategy for stronger cooperation with the GCC shortly after Ramadan (in May),” Borrell concluded. – KUNA