MOSCOW: The Kremlin announced yesterday that His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah will make an official visit to Russia upon an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin. This will be his first official visit to Russia since he assumed power in 2006. The visit – part of the top-level dialogue between the two friendly countries, is expected to give momentum to the bilateral ties in the economic and commercial fields and open new horizons for cooperation.
The Kuwaiti and Russian leaders will hold talks at the Black Sea resort city of Sochi on November 10, said a statement issued by the Russian presidential office. It added that the two sides will focus, among other things, on boosting economic and commercial ties, and on reviewing international issues, particularly those pertaining to the Middle East and North Africa.
Kuwait was the first Arabian Gulf state to establish diplomatic ties with the former Soviet Union in 1963 when the two countries opened their embassies in each other’s capital city regardless of the then ideological considerations, and regional and international polarizations. Kuwait and Moscow showed interest in strengthening their friendship in the early years of the 20th century when the world’s major powers were vying for the legacy of the Ottoman Empire.
Cables and letters exchanged by the Russian consuls general in Baghdad and Istanbul between 1908 and 1922 in the run-up to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, indicate that the Russians had an eye on Kuwait and neighboring countries. The Russian naval ships called in Kuwaiti seaports and were warmly welcomed by the Kuwaiti ruler and his top aides. Gelyan was the first Russian warship to arrive in Kuwait on November 18, 1900. Varyag arrived in December, 1901, the protected cruiser Admiral Kornilov arrived in the following year, and the cruiser Askold in 1903.
The late Amir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah was the first Kuwaiti senior official to visit Moscow in November, 1964, as Minister of Finance, Industry and Oil; his talks with the Soviet officials led to the signing of the first agreement on economic and commercial cooperation. The two sides inked agreements on economic and technical cooperation in February, 1965 – an agreement to upgrade the Kuwaiti fishing fleet in the following year; a protocol on cultural and scientific exchanges in 1978; a protocol on media cooperation in 1979, another agreement on economic and technical cooperation in 1982, and a protocol on academic certificate of equivalent competency in 1989.
Dozens of Kuwaiti students received their higher education at Soviet and Russian colleges, which contributed to the cementing of the bilateral scientific and cultural ties later on. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the late Minister of Defense of Kuwait Sheikh Ali Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah visited Moscow to sign a security agreement which paved the way for closer cooperation in the defense and technological domains.
Russian ex-prime minister Viktor Stepanovich Chernomyrdin paid a visit to Kuwait in 1994 to sign agreements on protection and promotion of investments, prevention of double taxation, cultural and media cooperation, and consultation between the two ministries of foreign affairs. The bilateral ties in the economic, commercial, scientific and technical fields got a quantum leap when the two sides agreed to form a joint commission, which met alternately in Moscow and Kuwait, and a joint business council. The friendship, based on mutual respect, the rules of the international law, and non-interference in the domestic affairs of each other, kept growing over the last decades.
Russia did not hesitate in supporting Kuwait in its struggle against the Iraqi invasion in 1990. The then Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev sent a personal envoy to Iraq to meet the country’s president Saddam Hussein and urge him to pull his troops from Kuwait. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the Russian Federation voted for all UNSC resolutions relating to Kuwait liberation and the handling of the Kuwaiti missing people and national archive. Moscow backed the UNSC Resolution 678, passed on November 29, 1990, to authorize taking all measures necessary for ending the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. In 1992, one year after the liberation of Kuwait, the late Amir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah visited Moscow to thank, on behalf of the Kuwaiti people and government, the Russian leaders for their supportive stance.
Kuwait offered a soft loan to the tune of $2 billion for Russia to overcome the economic hardships in early 1990s. The sides reached agreement on repayment of the loan in 2006. Kuwait supported the Russian bid to join the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as an observer state and establish a strategic dialogue with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). In May, 2009, the Russian Kremlin hosted the Treasury of the World exhibition, organized by Kuwait’s Dar Al-Athar Al-Islamiyyah for three months; the exhibition moved to St Petersburg city in August. In 2010, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation on the peaceful applications of the nuclear energy.
During his visit to Russia, His Highness the Amir is scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss a host of bilateral and regional issues, with emphasis on the political and economic cooperation. The visit, which gains additional significance as it coincides with exceptional circumstances in the Middle East, is expected to give momentum to the economic ties and commercial ties which lag behind the close political ones. The bilateral trade volume stood at $325 million in 2013, so the two sides pin hopes on the joint business council, launched in 2008, and the Russian direct investment fund, jointly launched with Kuwait Investment Authority with a capital of $500 million, to tap into the potentials of joint investment by the private sector. – KUNA