HH the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the architect of the nation’s modern foreign policy and mediator in some of the worst crises to grip the Gulf, died on Tuesday, the Amiri Diwan announced. Sheikh Sabah had earned a reputation as an insightful, unshakeable leader who helped steer his country through the 1990 Iraqi invasion, crashes in global oil markets and crises in parliament and on the streets.

“With great sadness and sorrow, the Amiri Diwan mourns the passing of His Highness the late Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah,” said Sheikh Ali Jarrah Al-Sabah, minister in charge of royal affairs, in a televised statement. State television had cut its regular programming and switched to a broadcast of Quranic recital before the announcement. HH the Amir had been receiving hospital treatment in the United States since July.

The 15th leader in a family that has ruled for over 250 years, Sheikh Sabah weathered Kuwait’s crises with shrewd judgment. As the country’s top diplomat for nearly four decades, he fostered close ties with the West, most notably the United States which led the international coalition that freed Kuwait from Iraqi occupation in 1991. He later emerged as mediator between the Gulf Cooperation Council and Iran, and between Saudi Arabia and Qatar following Riyadh’s 2017 decision to cut ties with Doha. Despite his advanced years, he remained deeply involved in global affairs.

In a sign of the respect that HH the Amir commanded across the region’s political divides, the UAE, Egypt and Qatar all declared three days of mourning. “The Arab and Muslim world has lost one of its most valuable leaders,” Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said in a tweet. Bahrain said that Kuwait had lost a “wise leader, an emir of humanity who loved what is good for the people”.
Even Yemen’s rival sides – who have yet to reach a political solution to the years-long war – paid tribute to the Amir on Tuesday. Yemen’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Al-Hadhrami offered his “sincere, heartfelt, condolences to our brothers in Kuwait” on Twitter. Meanwhile, Houthi rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam tweeted that the insurgents “will never forget (the Amir’s) position in support of peace negotiations… love for Yemen and keenness to extinguish the fire of war”. – Agencies