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Sides to promote security, stability – Roadmap set for bilateral ties in coming year

A general view shows US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (right), Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah (second right), taking part in a meeting of the US-Kuwait Strategic Dialogue at the State Department in Washington, DC on Sept 8. (AFP)

WASHINGTON, Sept 9, (KUNA): The United States and Kuwait renewed on Friday their commitments to promoting stability and security during the second round of their annual Strategic Dialogue. The meeting was co-chaired by US Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and Kuwaiti First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah. In a joint statement, the two sides discussed specific areas of cooperation and charted a roadmap for the bilateral relations for the coming year. Top US and Kuwaiti officials renewed partnership agreements on defense, security, trade, investment, education, consular, customs, and border protection issues.

In particular, both sides recommitted to promoting stability and security in the Gulf region and the broader Middle East, including targeting ISIS and other violent extremists, according to the statement released by the State Department. The United States and Kuwait headed political talks on several topics including tensions between Qatar and GCC nations, with Tillerson expressing gratitude to Kuwait’s efforts to ease escalating tensions between Qatar and other GCC countries. “Our two countries share the view of the importance of GCC unity in addressing the region’s many challenges,” said the Secretary of State.

Tillerson praised Kuwait’s extensive humanitarian efforts in some of the world’s most troubled areas and its direct assistance to the internally-displaced and refugees in the region. He expressed US appreciation for Kuwait’s offer to host a donors’ conference for Iraqi reconstruction in 2018.

The US and Kuwait agreed to work closely on defense cooperation in the meeting. An agreement was reached to enhance the defensive capabilities of Armed Forces of Kuwait. The US agreed to help expedite the acquisition of US military equipment, including that sale of its F/A-18 Super Hornet, a supersonic combat jet, to Kuwait’s Air Force.

“The United States and Kuwait share the responsibilities of cooperation on defense and the joint fight against terrorism. “As an enduring symbol of our commitment to carry the partnership into a secure future, we agreed today on the priority of moving forward with modernizing the military facilities in Kuwait, guided by our Joint Military Commission,” according to the statement.

“In the face of the global terrorism threat, Kuwait and the US agreed to coordinate to security efforts, including boosting bilateral information sharing, eg biometric information, to deter terrorist attacks. “Both sides said they would further steps to prevent the financing of terrorism and halting the flow of foreign terrorists into the region, which is believed to have declined significantly. This emphasized the importance of further cooperation in rehabilitating and reintegrating them into their society,” the statement reads.

“More must be done. The United States, Kuwait, and our other Global Coalition partners stand together in the shared fight against ISIS until it is defeated,” according to the statement. “Preventing the flow of foreign fighters has been a major part of our effort to defeat ISIS, and Kuwait is a co-lead of the Coalition Working Group on Foreign Fighters.” US and Kuwaiti cyber policymakers also met to strategize long-term cooperation against cyber-attacks.

The US assured its public and private sectors stand ready to support Kuwait as it implements its National Cyber Security Strategy. The US Chamber of Commerce hosted a US-Kuwait Economic Forum and a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Department of Commerce’s Select USA and the Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority, aimed at strengthening commerce and trade.

During talks, Kuwait stressed its priority to take steps that facilitate doing business in Kuwait, while both sides affirmed they would seek to alleviate any barriers to bilateral investment. In addition, the US Department of State and the Kuwait Ministry of Higher Education signed a memorandum of understanding that will encourage student exchanges and educational cooperation across institutions of higher learning and research centers.

More than 15,000 Kuwaitis are currently studying or preparing to study in the United States. Additionally, officials signed a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement to improve information sharing, training and enforcement of customs and immigration laws. Both sides reaffirmed commitment to protecting Kuwaiti and American nationals. “We will work to facilitate the secure travel of our nationals and further synchronize our border security partnerships.”

The next round of the Strategic Dialogue will be held in Kuwait in 2018. His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al- Jaber Al-Sabah sent a cable of gratitude to US President Donald Trump, thanking him for his hospitality during his visit and stay in the US capital Washington DC. His Highness the Amir lauded the atmosphere of cooperation and trust which was prevalent during the offi- cial talks between the two nations, affirming that Kuwait and the US shared common views regarding security and peace regionally and worldwide.

His Highness the Amir also commended the agreements signed between Kuwait and the US within the private sector, stressing that both countries will reap the benefits of those deals. His Highness Sheikh Sabah took the chance to invite President Trump to visit Kuwait, wishing him and the US evermore progress and welfare. His Highness the Amir departed from the US on Thursday after an official visit to Washington, where he held talks with President Donald Trump.

His Highness the Amir and his accompanying delegation, including Deputy Chief of the National Guard Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al- Sabah, were seen off at Joint Base Andrews by US State Department Deputy Chief of Protocol Michael Karloutsos and Joint Base Andrews Commander Col Mary Teeter. His Highness was also seen off by First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Sheikh Mohammed Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al- Sabah, Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Khaled Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Anas Al-Saleh, Kuwaiti Ambassador to the US Sheikh Salem Abdallah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Assistant Foreign Minister for the Office of the First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Dr Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah, and Kuwait’s General Consul in Los Angeles Faisal Ibrahim Al-Houli.

Kuwaiti and American officials stressed Friday the importance of the agreements signed that aim at boosting education and commerce between the two countries. In an interview with KUNA, Director General of Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority (KDIPA) Sheikh Dr Meshaal Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah said that the signing of the Cooperation Arrangement on the Promotion of Foreign Direct Investment with SelectUSA refl ects the importance of the relationship the two countries enjoy. He affirmed “it’s not just a strategic [relationship], it’s a historical relationship that both our countries enjoy.” He added that the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed today “will help us expand the increase of investment between our two countries.

It will help to attract more American companies to work in Kuwait and more Kuwaiti companies to work in the US in order to increase our bilateral trade.” For his part, Fred Volcansek, Executive Director for SelectUSA from the US Department of Commerce told KUNA that the importance of the MOU is that it “gives us an opportunity to work together as investment promotion agencies for our respective countries.” He added that the foreign direct investment is a major part of our economic development programs and we wanted to be equal with that which we are doing in Kuwait.” As for the MOU signed between the US Department of State and Kuwait’s Ministry of Higher Education for Cooperation in the Field of Higher Cooperation, Kuwait’s Higher Education Undersecretary Dr Hamed Alazemi told KUNA that the main purpose of the MOU “is to have a clear map of what we are doing for the next 20 years.” He affirmed “we have succeeded in expanding the research cooperation and the students’ academic achievements in general. Hopefully this will be a starting point and have positive effect on our education system.” He noted we used to have a major hurdle to have something substantiated with the US to have a common ground in building a strategic plan for education in Kuwait.”

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