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Kuwait-Turkey relations: history of deep-rooted ties, common interests

KUWAIT: His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are pictured during the latter’s visit to Kuwait in 2015. —KUNA

ANKARA: Bilateral relations and regional development as well as other issues of common concern will feature high on the agenda of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah’s visit to Turley on Monday and his talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The relations between the two countries have been remarkably on the rise over the past years, gradually turning from the level of friendship to partnership based on mutual respect and common interests.

The two countries and their people are closely bound by deep-rooted religious, or rather Islamic, historical and cultural ties that can significantly contribute to further enhance bilateral relations. Diplomatic relations between Kuwait and Turkey date back to the year 1969; embassies were opened in both states a year later, when a transport cooperation agreement was also signed.

In 1975, the two countries signed a cultural agreement, followed by one for aviation cooperation in 1977. In 1982, an agreement followed on economic, technical and industrial cooperation, then a post service one in 1986. Then in 1988, they signed a pact for encouraging and protecting investments.

Remarkable improvement
In the wake of the Liberation of Kuwait from the Iraqi invasion in 1991, Kuwait-Turkey relations improved remarkably. His highness the late Amir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah visited Ankara in November 1991, where he voiced appreciation and gratitude over Turkey’s support to Kuwait during the invasion.

Since the first hours of the crisis, Turkey condemned the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and considered it a violation of the International law and legitimacy, declaring solidarity with the country. Moreover, during the invasion Ankara suspended oil pumped from Iraqi wells passing through the Turkish lands and joined the international coalition to liberate Kuwait.

Then in October 1997, former Turkish President Sulaiman Demirel visited Kuwait and had talks with His Highness the late Amir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, on bilateral ties and a multitude of issues of common concern. During the visit, the two leaders signed a financial agreement to prevent dual taxation, and another one to boost cultural cooperation.

His Highness Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah visited Ankara in 2008 and signed seven agreements in various fields, besides other seven agreements on economic, technical, scientific and health cooperation, in addition to exchange of manpower. An agreement was then signed forming a joint higher committee on the level of foreign ministers. Then during His Highness the Amir’s visit to Ankara in 2013, the two countries signed eight agreements that covered various fields of cooperation.

Over the period 2008-14, the two sides signed a number of agreements at the ministerial level, including an MoU on the exchange of military expertise, training and military cooperation, and joint military drills, in addition to protection of the environment, maritime transport, preservation of natural resources, promoting industrial exports. The two countries are bound by agreement totaling 41, mostly economic, signed over the decade.

In 2009, His Highness the Amir visited Istanbul, leading the Kuwaiti delegation to the 25th conference of the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (COMCEC). His Highness the Amir and former Turkish President Abduallah Gul then discussed means to boost bilateral relations on all levels.

OIC Summit
In April 2016, His Highness the Amir visited Istanbul where he attended the 13th Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit, themes “Unity and Solidarity for Justice and Peace.” Then in May 2016, His Highness the Amir led the Kuwaiti delegation to the first ever World Humanitarian Summit held in Istanbul.

Former Turkish leader Gul visited Kuwait three times, February 2009, February 2011 and March 2014, as part of the mutual efforts to consolidate bilateral ties. Current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Kuwait in April 2015, after two visits to the country as a prime minister in 2005 and 2011.

Bilateral trade hit $700 million in 2016, compared to $624 million a year earlier. Turkish firms carried out construction business worth $6.3 billion in Kuwait, as Kuwait’s direct investments in Turkey hit $2 billion.

There were 271 Kuwaiti companies investing in Turkey, besides 387 branches of Kuveyt-Turk Bank, an affiliate of the Kuwait Finance House (KFH). Kuwait’s Burgan Bank’s owns shares in a Turkish bank. Last year, up to 180,000 Kuwaitis visited Turkey as tourists.

Since 1992, the two countries exchanged official visits at the level of parliament speakers, premiers and ministers. The last of these was a visit by Kuwait’s National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem to Turley in February 2016.

The Joint Higher Committee between Kuwait and Turkey held its first meeting in Kuwait on October 24, 2013. Coordination is underway by the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry for the second meeting in Ankara over the coming period to discuss means of promoting bilateral ties on all levels.

The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) is yet another Kuwaiti institute that is cooperating with Turkey. The fund made its first loan to Turkey in 1979 for an electricity grid. Up to November 2009, the KFAED had presented a total of 12 loans to Turkey worth KD 106 million.

In January 2016, the fund signed with the Ankara to provide Turkey with a donation worth $20 million contributing to a rapid response plan for the Syrian refugees in the country. This was a part of Kuwait’s commitment during the Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria to offer $500 million to Syrian refugees.

Personal donation
His Highness the late Amir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah had offered a personal donation of $1 million to the victims of the 1999 Izmit earthquake that hit northwestern Turkey. Kuwaiti charities organizations also offered great donations and humanitarian aid.

Then in November 2014 the Kuwaiti funded ‘Humanitarian Leader’ village was inaugurated in the eastern Turkey city of Van which was hit by a destructive quake that killed 644 people, wounded 4,152 others and damaged 2,262 houses.

In March 2016, the Kuwaiti-funded “Sabah Al-Ahmad” village was opened in Kilis, southern Turkey, for the Syrian refugees. The village comprises 1,248 domiciles accommodating more than 15,000 refugees, along with a coed school, a library, a mosque, a nursery and a social center.

As part of the efforts to support Turkey that hosts up to three million Syrian refugees, Kuwait hosted the First, Second and Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria. It also co-chaired the fourth one in London, Britain, in February 2016.

By the same, token, Kuwait-based charity organizations and societies, as well as beneficiaries have provided considerable amounts of humanitarian and relief aid from Turkey across the border into Syria. Moreover, Kuwaiti medical teams have conducted surgeries and offered due health care to many Syrian refugees in Al-Amal Hospital in the town of Reyhanli, in southern Turkey Hatay Province. – KUNA

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