By UK Ambassador Michael Davenport
Diplomats are supposed to be used to moving on, but I must admit that I never find it very easy. Kuwait is no exception. My wife Lavinia and I have been fortunate to spend six months longer here than we expected, giving us the opportunity to savior Kuwait’s best kept secret – it’s beautiful, mild winter. We have made wonderful friends in Kuwait and look forward to staying in touch.
Although I had visited Kuwait briefly two years after the First Gulf War, the experience of living and working here was completely new. Only living in Kuwait have I come to understand the depth and breadth of relations between Britain and Kuwait and the extent to which so many Kuwaitis have come to see Britain, and London in particular, as a second home.
I arrived here with the words of the Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office ringing in my ears – ‘Congratulations on the job Michael, but please do remember that relations with Kuwait are very good, so just don’t mess it up !’
He was right of course. But I think His Highness the late Amir Sheikh Sabah hit the nail even more firmly on the head when he told me that relations between our two countries are not just very good, or very special, but “unique and distinguished.” This is due in no small part to the very close friendship between Kuwait’s Ruling Family and the British Royal Family.
It was therefore both a great pleasure and an enormous privilege to welcome His Royal Highness Prince William to Kuwait at the end of 2019 and more recently his father, His Royal Highness Prince Charles, when he came last October to express his condolences to His Highness the Amir on the death of Sheikh Sabah.
During 2019 Britain and Kuwait marked together the 120th anniversary of our Treaty of Friendship of 1899. His Highness the Prime Minister hosted an anniversary event and we watched with pride as the Kuwait Towers were lit up with our respective flags for the occasion. Later that year Sheikh Mohamed Abdullah Al Sabah attended celebrations hosted in London by the Lord Mayor and the late Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al Sabah visited London for the signature of new accords to deepen our bilateral defense co-operation, which remains at the core of our relations.
Of course none of us in 2019 anticipated that 2020 would be the year of COVID-19 and the global battle against the pandemic. We are grateful above all for the unflagging hard work and personal sacrifice of Kuwait’s healthcare workers to keep us safe over the last twelve months, and we mourn those who have given their lives in this struggle.
Many young Kuwaitis I have spoken to over the last few years are impressively energized by efforts both to tackle climate change and clean up our environment. So it is my hope that Kuwait will support an ambitious outcome at the Glasgow Summit this November, one which really will limit the rise in temperatures which is threatening life on our planet as we know it.
As I prepare to leave Kuwait, following a long line of more illustrious predecessors since 1904, I feel confident that close and friendly relations between our two countries will continue. Even during COVID-19 more Kuwaiti students than ever before are studying at British universities. Together we are tackling the cyber threat more effectively and we are deepening scientific collaboration to ensure a sustainable future for coming generations.
Over the last few years we have opened up new opportunities and together laid the foundations for an even closer and more enduring partnership. Long may it last!