REFINING BONDS

Oman 2018 | DIPLOMACY | FOCUS: OMANI-KUWAITI TIES

The visit of Sheikh Sabah of Kuwait to Oman showcased the strategic and long-lasting friendship between both countries in the diplomatic sphere and preceded a massive economic partnership between the two state oil companies.

Under the leadership of Sultan Qaboos Bin Said and of Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jabir Al Sabah, Oman and Kuwait have developed very close political and economic bonds, strengthened by common interests and nuanced diplomatic stands in the region. From February 20-22, 2017, Sultan Qaboos received Sheikh Sabah on a state visit, reflecting the strategic and long-lasting friendship between the two nations. After the Sultan led the official welcome ceremony, a motorcade brought the rulers to Al Alam Palace, where Sultan Qaboos bestowed the Emir with the Al Said Order and presented him with an Omani sword. In return, the Emir of Kuwait presented Sultan Qaboos with a copy of the book Biography of Omani Renowned Figures.

The rulers discussed ways to ease tensions between Iran and GCC countries. Both countries have managed to maintain relatively normal relations with Tehran, allowing them to constitute a bridge between Gulf States and Iran. In a similar manner, Kuwait and Oman have also served as mediators between the Saudi-led military coalition and Houthis in Yemen. More generally, international institutions have praised the involvement of the two rulers with regard toward human rights and development. In 2016, Sultan Qaboos received the Arab Human Rights Award by the Arab-European Center of Human Rights, while UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon honored Sheikh Sabah with the Humanitarian Leader Award in 2014.
New turbulence in the region has put the spotlight on the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, but in the background Oman and Kuwait are further converging in their diplomatic alignment and quietly establishing the importance of their relationship in the international arena. For instance, on July 15, 2017 HE Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, the Omani Minister of Foreign Affairs, had a phone call with Rex Tillerson, US Secretary of State. Once again, he stressed the importance of supporting Sheikh Sabah in achieving greater unity inside the GCC to avoid further regional instability.
Besides the political fundamentals of Oman-Kuwait relations, the visit was also aimed at further developing growing economic links. According to Kuwait News Agency, exports from the Sultanate to Kuwait reached USD215 million in 2016, rising from USD197 million in 2015. Kuwait's exports to Oman reached USD145 million, nearly doubling from USD85 million in 2015. Joint investments are particularly active in the education, health, transport, construction, tourism, and gas sectors. The volume of these investments reached USD545 million in 2015.
The eighth session of the Omani-Kuwaiti Higher Joint Committee took place on June 8, 2017. Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid, Deputy Prime Minister of Kuwait, reaffirmed the importance of the earlier visit of Emir Sabah to the Sultanate, stressing the sincere brotherhood between the Omani and Kuwaiti people and their renewed determination to work together. The Deputy Prime Minister also encouraged the committee to take advantage of the momentum created by the Oman visit to launch a new phase of fruitful economic cooperation. In this perspective, a decisive step was the finalization of the April agreement between Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and Oman Oil Company. These companies will develop a refinery complex in Duqm for a total cost approximating USD7 billion. The project is due to be completed in 2019 and will produce 230,000bpd to meet rising oil demand in Oman and abroad.
The tremendous growth in trade exchange and the magnitude of the Duqm refinery are positive signals of the translation of like-minded geopolitical vision into economic terms in the Oman-Kuwait friendship. Growing trade and investments will certainly prove beneficial for both countries and for the region as a whole, further intertwining interests between the two brotherly countries.