Press Availability With Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah
Secretary of State
This visit is of an utmost importance since it’s the first of the U.S. Secretary of State to Kuwait in the framework of the Strategic Dialogue between two countries. This visit is within difficult regional and international situation and circumstances. Today, alongside His Excellency Secretary of State Pompeo, we met with His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, may God protect him. We listened to his guidelines and important advice with regard to several international and regional issues and that aim at promoting and consolidating the bilateral relations between both countries.
Kuwait and the United States have historic and very important relations. The diplomatic relations between both countries have been established in 1961. However, bilateral relations go back, way back to 1880 when the (inaudible), an American traveler visited Kuwait and wrote down his first impressions about the country.
Several important milestones have further consolidated the bilateral relations. We can start, first of all, by the firm U.S. statement in preserving the peace and security in Kuwait in 1991, and this the Kuwaiti population will never forget. Today, the Secretary of State Pompeo is our guest, our visitor, and is presiding over the U.S. delegation in the third round of Strategic Dialogue between the U.S. and Kuwait. Twenty-three government officials, seventy officials and experts from both countries will take part in this meeting. The expert – and they will delve in several important issues such as security, defense, economy, education, customs, and civil aviation. And I would like to underline that both officials – officials from both countries have already worked on these issues and will continue working on these issues nonstop.
We have already held several bilateral discussions to talk about the latest and most important developments on the regional and international scales, and with regards to the Gulf crisis, we value the efforts exerted by the U.S. delegation in solving this crisis. This initiative is of course supported by His Highness Amir of the country, may God protect him.
The Yemeni crisis was also discussed by both delegations, and both parties have underlined the importance of finding a solution to this crisis based on the Gulf initiative, the implementation mechanisms, the outputs of national dialogue, and the Security Council Resolution 2216. We have also delved into the Syrian crisis and the humanitarian tragedy that the Syrian population is going through. And we both agreed on the necessity to uphold peace and security in this country according to international law and international references.
We also talked about the Iranian-Gulf relations and the efforts exerted by both countries to counter terrorism and to – and we focused as well on the peace process in the Middle East and the importance to step up cooperation and coordination between two countries in the Security Council to solve these issues.
Thank you, and I would like to reiterate my warm welcome to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Prime Minister. It’s great to be with you today. I’m truly honored to be here in Kuwait on my first trip as Secretary of State. President Trump was proud to host High Highness the Amir in September of last year, and the President sends his greetings.
I want to repeat what I said a bit earlier too. In November, my country lost a true champion of Kuwait’s liberation, President George H.W. Bush. President Bush’s leadership in defense of your country reflected America’s long-term legacy as a force for good in this region. We were deeply touched by the outpouring of tributes that came from so many Kuwaiti leaders and citizens. Thank you for your sympathies on America’s loss.
We used today’s Strategic Dialogue, the third of its kind, to make further progress on a range of issues from defense to counterterrorism and security; to enhancement of trade and investment between our two countries; to education, culture, and science; and to the protection of our citizens and our borders. Our defense relationship is particular – of particular importance as Kuwait hosts thousands of U.S. troops and is a powerful partner in combating ISIS, al-Qaida, and other terrorist groups.
And we are substantially intensifying our collaboration to prevent cyber threats – threats not only to our security, but to the prosperity of our people as well. In the face of these dangers and others, the United States remains committed to Kuwait’s security too. At the same time, I want to praise Kuwait for taking significant initiative on its own to solve some of the region’s most challenging issues, including those in Yemen, in Syria, in Iran, and in Iraq. We coordinate closely with Kuwait as co-members of the UN Security Council on a range of issues all across the spectrum for international peace and security.
The United States greatly appreciates His Highness the Amir’s leadership on humanitarian issues in the region, particularly in Syria and in Yemen. Kuwait is showing the kind of leadership President Trump asked of our partners in the region. And as I made clear earlier this year in Cairo and then again in Warsaw, the United States will be an unwavering friend to any nation who has resolved to meet regional challenges head-on. The United States appreciates the extraordinary efforts of His Highness the Amir to facilitate a resolution of the Gulf dispute, and on a separate note, as part of our commitment to help build partnerships in the region, we’re encouraging the Government of Iraq to continue to enhance its relationships with Kuwait.
We also used our Strategic Dialogue to work to increase trade and investment. We signed an agreement today that will promote entrepreneurship in small and medium enterprises here in Kuwait. This compact will send a positive signal to potential investors in Kuwait and enhance your country’s private sector development as well.
And finally, we had the chance to have a discussion on the long history of cooperation between the United States and Kuwait in the field of education. We announced Department of State programs that will strengthen teaching of English in Kuwait and increase people-to-people exchanges between our two countries. The very impressive group of former students that I met earlier today attests to the value of these programs.
I want to close by saying thank you again to my Kuwaiti counterparts for their hospitality and their continued commitment to our deep-rooted relationship. Together we’re making this region and the world more secure and delivering tangible benefits to the people of Kuwait and to the United States. Thank you. (Applause.)
FOREIGN MINISTER AL-SABAH: Ready to take questions?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, of course.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL-SABAH: Please.
QUESTION: Hello. Thank you, Mr. Minister, for welcoming us. I’m Edward Wong from The New York Times. I have one question for each of the leaders here.
Mr. Minister, I know that one of the big issues between the United States and the Gulf states is the United States’ desire to have the Gulf states be supportive of the upcoming peace plan that they will unveil in Israel. So I’d like to ask: What is your take on the status of Jerusalem right now and on the United States position on that? And what would you like to see in the upcoming peace plan on Israel?
And Mr. Secretary, I’d like to ask: What is the United States policy and position on the West Bank and the Golan Heights? Is – are these territories occupied by Israel or are they not occupied by Israel? Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL-SABAH: (Off-mike.)
SECRETARY POMPEO: Sure, I’ll go first. To answer your question, there’s been no change in U.S. policy with respect to the question that you asked.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL-SABAH: I’ll do it in Arabic to the benefit of all you’re addressing.
(Via interpreter) The peace plan has long been waited and we believe that our friends and colleagues in the United States of America have what it takes and have the necessary ideas to keep on going with the peace process and elaborate a peace plan that will take into account the situation in the region and all the relevant stakeholders. This issue was discussed with His Excellency Mike Pompeo and we believe that the strong relationship between the United States and several countries will lead to an acceptable ending to all the stakeholders and will lead to reaching a political solution that has been long awaited.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Good morning. (Inaudible) magazine. After signing the agreements, I would like to ask a question to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: Every year, several reports are elaborated by the Secretary of State in the United States, and several reports criticize Kuwait. How these – how are these reports elaborated?
I am going to ask this question to both ministers: You were in Qatar lately. What can you tell us about solving the Gulf crisis? Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Let me – may I proceed? So let me try and answer the second question first, and then I’ll come back to the first one.
So we spoke a great deal today about the rift between the Gulf countries. We are all working to find a solution. It’s not in the best interests of the region, it’s not in the best interests of the world. We need the Gulf countries all working together on the complex set of challenges that face each of them.
As I think I’ve said repeatedly, the United States is a force for good in the region. We are working to help those countries find a set of common ground. We all have the same set of threats: the threats from al-Qaida and from ISIS, the threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran. And we all are working diligently to find a path forward so that the rift between those countries can be resolved.
You asked a question about the reports. I’m not sure precisely which reports you’re referring to. If it’s the Human Rights Report that was issued this past week or the week before, each year the State Department prepares a report. It is designed to be a factual report that identifies places where we have concerns about human rights. We do that broadly. We do that for our friends, for our adversaries. It is an attempt for us to document those things that we observe where we hope countries can continue to do better. We – I know we had comments about many countries in this region. In each case, we work alongside, especially countries like Kuwait, to help find paths forward that reduce that risk.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL-SABAH: (Via interpreter) With regards to the Gulf crisis, we value the efforts exerted by the United States to reach a solution, and we value the support provided by the United States to His Highness Amir of Kuwait in seeking to find a solution to this crisis. We believe that these efforts will continue to be exerted because there is no alternative. This is the only option. Thank you so much.