After congratulating Kuwait’s new emir and inviting him to visit Egypt, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri said any attempts to disrupt Egyptian-Kuwaiti relations, which he described as “strong and special”, were destined to fail, according to a diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Shoukri began his three-day visit by meeting with Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the new emir of Kuwait, during which he delivered an invitation from President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi to visit Egypt, and extended his congratulations to the new crown prince Sheikh Meshaal Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah. He also met with his Kuwaiti counterpart Sheikh Ahmed Al-Nasser Al-Sabah and Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah.
During the discussions preparations for the joint ministerial committee which oversees bilateral cooperation and is scheduled to meet early next year were addressed, as well as the possibility of resuming flights between Egypt and Kuwait.
Shoukri said both countries were keen to resume direct flights. Air links were halted in August when Kuwait announced it was suspending flights to a number of countries, including Egypt, owing to concerns over the spread of Covid-19. The suspension of flights to “high-risk” countries came hours after Kuwait International Airport reopened following a five-month closure at the height of the pandemic.
The failure to reach a binding agreement on filling and operating the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) was also discussed, with Kuwait reasserting its support of Egyptian and Sudanese water security as part of Arab national security. In March, the Arab League affirmed that Egypt’s water security is an integral part of Arab national security, and vowed to support Egypt’s historic rights to Nile water.
Shoukri stressed Egypt’s full support for Kuwaiti stability and security in the face of regional challenges. “Shoukri re-emphasised that the security of the Gulf is a red line and that it is important to continue political coordination with Kuwait on various levels in light of the destructive regional interference Arab countries are facing,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Hafez said in a statement issued during Shoukri’s visit.
Recent months have seen tensions between the two countries rise in the wake of reports of Egyptian workers being mistreated in Kuwait. One incident, captured on CCTV in Kuwait earlier this year, showed a Kuwaiti customer slapping an Egyptian cashier working at a supermarket. The footage, which included the customer being verbally abusive to the expatriate worker, sparked outrage on social media.
Following the incident Minister of Immigration and Egyptian Expatriates Affairs Nabila Makram announced that the Kuwaiti citizen who slapped the Egyptian man had been arrested.
Last month Kuwait expressed strong condemnation of “offensive remarks” targeting Kuwait posted on social media by an Egyptian official in the Ministry of Manpower.
Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah issued a statement urging Cairo to take legal action against the official, and hours after Kuwait summoned the Egyptian ambassador the official was dismissed. The Ministry of Manpower subsequently issued a statement saying that it had taken legal measures against that official. The incident occurred days after a female Egyptian doctor was verbally and physically assaulted while performing her duties in a Kuwaiti hospital, leading to a flurry of social media posts criticising Egyptian authorities for their failure to take action to protect expatriate workers.
More than 600,000 Egyptians work in Kuwait, making them the second largest expat community in the country, and Kuwait ranks as the third largest Arab investor in Egypt.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 19 November, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly