Prince of Kuwait Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah has done his best to mediate between different conflicting Arab countries, bridging the gaps between them. He and the Kuwaitis have been trying to help Syrian refugees as well as other vulnerable groups through international fundraising and delivering aid to them.
On the humanitarian level, Kuwait hosted two international summits, in 2013 and 2014. The international community was represented by the UN secretary general as well as officials from many countries and international and regional organisations. Participants in those summits donated $2.5 billion, of which $500 million was offered by Kuwait in the 2014 summit. This money was devoted to Syrians who have been suffering from violence in Syria, and Syrian refugees outside Syria.
Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary general, called the Prince of Kuwait a "humanitarian leader" and called Kuwait a "humanitarian centre" in appreciation of the tremendous contribution of Kuwait to easing the misery of the Syrians. The Prince of Kuwait received this title in a ceremony at the UN on 9 September 2014. This UN recognition of the Kuwaiti role to help Syrians and others could be a motivation for other countries to follow suit, in order to help the needy, regardless of their ethnicity, colour, language or religion. The generosity of Kuwait and other countries should be a hope for Syrians and others who suffer from violence and displacement — that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It should be noted that aid is a temporary remedy for the plight of Syrians and Iraqis, as well as others. But it is an important element, besides political solutions.
On the political track, Kuwait and its prince have worked tirelessly to ease tensions and sort out differences between several Arab countries. Kuwait intervened to end the dispute between Qatar and some Gulf countries, namely Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain. In November 2013, the Prince of Kuwait succeeded to get a tripartite meeting in Riyadh with Saudi King Abdullah and Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani.
The main disagreement between Saudi Arabia and Qatar was over Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood. While Saudis supported the overthrow of Morsi, Qatar has been backing the Muslim Brotherhood. This meeting did not succeed in bridging the gap between the two countries. In March 2014, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar, objecting its policies that undermine the interests and security of other countries. Other commentators added another reason, which was the Qatari foreign minister's visit to Tehran in February, where he said that Iran could play a role to end the Syrian crisis. Then, during the Arab Summit in Kuwait, it was decided that Gulf problems would be discussed inside the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The foreign minister of Kuwait said that Kuwait would continue its diplomatic efforts to clear the air inside the Gulf region.
In April 2014, there was a meeting of GCC foreign ministers and they agreed on a "collective framework" in which the policies of the member states "would not affect the interests, security and stability of its members and would not tamper with the sovereignty of any of its members." But no date was set for the ambassadors to return to Doha. In this meeting, Kuwait was praised for its role in overcoming divisions inside the Arab Gulf house. Kuwait opened the door for reconciliation, and there were visits between Qatari and Saudi officials in July and August this year. Those visits tackled some issues, especially relations between Qatar and Egypt, which is the main reason for the dispute between Doha and the three Gulf states. It was reported that King Abdullah has been coordinating with Kuwait and Oman to normalise Qatari-Egyptian relations after the events of 30 June 2013. A closed meeting was held between the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar in Cairo to sort out remaining problems between Qatar and Egypt.
Finally, it should be noted that there are some factors that enabled Kuwait to play this reconciliatory role. First, it did not take sides but kept itself neutral. For example, Kuwait did not call the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group and did not withdraw its ambassador from Qatar. Second, the long diplomatic experience of Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah enabled him to get opponents to the same table. It is expected that the ambassadors of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain will return to Doha before the Gulf Summit in December 2014.
Adding to the Kuwaiti role, new challenges — especially the threat posed by the Islamic State group and American calls for an alliance including Arab countries to confront it — might unite Arab Gulf countries and ease tensions between Qatar and Egypt.
The writer is an expert in Islamic movements and a lecturer in Middle East politics.