Kuwaiti foreign minister makes landmark Ramallah visit
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Kuwaiti foreign minister makes landmark Ramallah visit

Visit, intended to boost ties, is first by a senior official from the Gulf state to the West Bank since 1967

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, meets with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah on September 14, 2014 in Ramallah. (photo credit: AFP/ABBAS MOMANI)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, meets with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah on September 14, 2014 in Ramallah. (photo credit: AFP/ABBAS MOMANI)

Kuwait’s foreign minister arrived Sunday for a visit to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian officials.

The visit of Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah, who also serves as deputy prime minister, is the first by a high-ranking Kuwaiti official to the West Bank since 1967 and “signals the long-standing commitment of Kuwait’s leadership and people towards supporting the Palestinian people in their legitimate struggle for restoring their rights on the Arab and international levels,” according to the official Kuwait News Agency.

Palestinian Authority officials hailed the visit, with PA spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh saying it comes at a critical juncture for the Palestinian cause, and noting that “Kuwaiti-Palestinian relations have a long history as Kuwait has been supporting the Palestinian Authority and its people at all levels.”

Al-Sabah was scheduled to sign a number of cooperation agreements with the Palestinians, and discuss financial support to Ramallah, the Palestinian Ma’an news site reported.

In the aftermath of the seven-week conflict between Hamas and Israel that left the coastal enclave in ruins this summer, Abbas has been taking an active approach toward wresting control of the Gaza Strip from Hamas and advancing his goal of achieving Palestinian statehood.

PA officials have said that Abbas intends to present Israel with a timetable for further peace negotiations. If Israel fails to comply, they said, the Palestinians will ask the UN Security Council to set a deadline for Israel to withdraw from lands captured during the 1967 Six Day War.

Since the Palestinians expect the US to veto any Security Council resolution, they intend to then approach the General Assembly with the same request. After that, the PLO will seek to join international bodies and organizations and then campaign to have Palestine recognized as a nation under occupation according to the Geneva Conventions.

If none of those moves achieves Abbas’s goal of the declaration of a Palestinian state, he threatened to halt joint security operations with Israel, central to the recent relative calm in the West Bank, and hand over all responsibility for rule in Palestinian cities to the IDF.

Kuwaiti-Palestinian relations were strained from the Gulf War until 2004 because then PA chairman Yasser Arafat was aligned with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein before his invasion of Kuwait. However, in December 2004 Abbas made the first visit to Kuwait by a senior PA official since the Gulf War and apologized for his predecessor’s policy.

 Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.

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