Kuwait, UK celebrate 120 years of friendship

Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah receives a memento.

KUWAIT: Kuwait celebrated the 120th anniversary of friendship between Kuwait and the United Kingdom yesterday at the Sheraton Hotel. During the opening speech, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah praised the high level of the strong, strategic and historical ties between Kuwait and the UK during their extended relationship for more than 250 years.

He said Kuwait celebrates today the 120th anniversary of the signing of the Kuwait-British Friendship Treaty (protection agreement) by the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Mubarak bin Sabah Al-Sabah with the British government in 1899, as this treaty was one of the most famous agreements between Kuwait and Britain. “Kuwaiti-British relations have continued to develop and strengthen till the present day thanks to the efforts of the two countries and the two friendly peoples to support and strengthen bilateral relations in all aspects,” he said.

Information Minister Mohammad Al-Jabri and The British Ambassador to Kuwait Michael Davenport.

Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled said Great Britain proved to be a great partner in difficult and good times, adding that traveling to the UK is easier now, especially with a decision to facilitate e-visa procedures and an increase in the number of direct flights to 14 between the two capitals. “Kuwait has made steady growth in the UK since the establishment of the Kuwait Investment Office in London in 1953,” he said. “This office is the first investment fund to be opened in the British capital, reflecting Kuwait’s confidence in the British market and the status of London as an international financial center where total investments, both public and private, reached $65 billion.”

He pointed out that the volume of trade between the two friendly countries is witnessing a remarkable increase on an annual basis. For example, during the past few years, it has increased at a steady rate of about 10 percent annually, with trade exchange in 2018 amounting to more than $4.5 billion.

6,500 students
In the education field, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled said it is growing significantly, as the number of students enrolled in prestigious educational institutions in the United Kingdom during the past three years rose by 140 percent to reach 6,500 students. In the field of healthcare, the confidence of Kuwaiti citizens is clearly reflected in the efficiency of British medical institutions and the provision of excellent medical services and facilities to Kuwaiti patients.

Minister of Information Mohammad Abdullah Al-Jabri stressed the Kuwaiti people will not forget the permanent stances of the United Kingdom, most notably during the Iraqi invasion in 1990, where it contributed to the war to liberate Kuwait. He added that the ministry of information affirms its constant commitment to media and cultural relations through the establishment of cultural activities in the UK as well as the exchange of experiences in various media fields, along with training media cadres and inviting British media to participate to attend conferences and media seminars in Kuwait throughout the year.

British Ambassador to Kuwait Michael Davenport said: “On behalf of Her Majesty’s government, I should like to express our heartfelt thanks to the government of Kuwait and to Their Excellencies the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Information personally for hosting today’s event to mark the anniversary of the first treaty between our countries signed on this very day 120 years ago.”

He added that the British commitment to Kuwait continued beyond Kuwait’s independence in 1961. In that very year, Britain responded to the then Amir’s request for military support, fulfilling its enduring commitment to Kuwait by deploying armed forces amounting to half of a brigade under Operation Vantage. “When your country was invaded, overrun and occupied by Iraq in August 1990, Britain under PM Margaret Thatcher played a leading role in securing a UN mandate for an international coalition to be formed for the liberation of Kuwait,” he said.

“Kuwaitis invest in properties all over the United Kingdom and not just in London, and there are now more Kuwaitis studying at British universities than ever before. Indeed, more Kuwaitis are now traveling to Britain than ever before. A key outcome of the state visit to Britain by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in 2012 was the establishment of a new framework for our bilateral relations in the form of the Joint Steering Group, as part of my government’s new Gulf strategy. This Joint Steering Group has helped us deepen our defense and security cooperation. In the year ahead, our armed forces will be exercising and training together more than ever before. We are close allies in the International Countering IS Coalition,” Davenport said.

Working together
On the government-to-government level, he said they are working together in highly sensitive areas, for example, to safeguard passengers flying out of airports and protect the integrity of data and communications against cyber-attacks. “Last week’s visit by the Lord Mayor of the City of London highlighted new opportunities in trade and investment – in both directions – including in support of His Highness the Amir’s exciting new plans for Madinat Al-Hareer in pursuit of Kuwait’s Vision 2035,” Davenport noted.

On the education level, he revealed the Kuwaiti Minister of Education will attend the Education World Forum in London, where he will hold consultations on cooperation in the area of curriculum reform. “In the cultural sphere, the 120th anniversary has helped to stimulate fresh co-operation in music and the arts between the British Council and the National Council for Culture, Arts and Literature. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will be making its first-ever visit to Kuwait in April to perform at the remarkable Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Centre,” he said.

By Faten Omar