Kuwait Emir to visit Iran amid thaw in ties

May 21, 2014 - 1:17:02 am

Tehran:  Kuwait Emir will visit Iran at the end of the month to help turn a “new page” in bilateral ties, Iran’s foreign ministry said yesterday, in the latest sign that Tehran seeks to improve relations with its Arab neighbours. Emir H H Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah (pictured), will visit Iran from May 31 to June 1 at the invitation of Iranian President Hassan Rowhani, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said. The trip will be his first to Iran since becoming emir in 2006.

Kuwait, home to a sizeable Shia minority, is seen by some as a potential bridge between Shia  power Iran and Sunni Muslim Gulf countries. The visit “will usher in a new page of Kuwait-Iran relations,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham told a televised news conference in Tehran. The office of Kuwait’s emir has not confirmed the trip.

Sheikh Sabah, a former foreign minister, is often described by analysts as one of the region’s most important diplomats, often acting as a mediator and peacemaker. He has maintained good ties with Iran, directly across the Gulf waterway, as well as with Kuwait’s large neighbours Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Iran’s Rowhani, a relative moderate elected last year, has repeatedly vowed to improve relations with neighbouring countries.

The planned meeting follows Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s tour of the Middle East in December after Tehran signed an interim nuclear deal with world powers. Kuwait welcomed the agreement, saying it hoped it would help to preserve stability and security in the region.