Kuwait buries late emir Sheikh Nawaf, world leaders to pay respects


AL-SIDDEEQ: Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, whose six-decade career in public service primarily focused on domestic issues, was buried on Sunday as world leaders made their way to pay their respects and meet the new ruler of the Gulf state.

His successor, Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah, 83, was seen shedding a tear at the prayer service attended by members of the ruling Al Sabah family and the speaker of Kuwait’s parliament.

Sheikh Meshal had been Kuwait’s de facto ruler since late 2021 when a frail Sheikh Nawaf handed over most of his duties.

As he formally takes the helm of the OPEC member with the world’s seventh-largest oil reserves from his half-brother, Sheikh Meshal is expected to preserve key Kuwaiti foreign policies, including support for Gulf Arab unity, Western alliances and good ties to Riyadh – a priority relationship.

Read more: Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah dies

Sheikh Nawaf’s three-year reign as emir, relatively short by Kuwait standards, was marred by ill-health. His predecessor and brother, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, reigned for 14 years and shaped the Gulf state’s foreign policy for two generations.

Sheikh Nawaf, whose casket was draped in Kuwait’s flag, was buried at Sulaibikhat cemetery alongside his kin, after prayers at Bilal bin Rabah mosque. He died aged 86.

Abdullah Sabah Al-Mulla, a 56-year-old Kuwaiti professor, said the nation has lost a “great father” in Sheikh Nawaf.

“He did not put a barrier between him and anyone. To him, all the people were equal,” he said.

Sheikh Nawaf’s six decades in public service included stints as minister of defence, interior and labour. He was also deputy chief of the National Guard and a governor.

Dignitaries from around the world, including US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Jordan’s King Abdullah were due in Kuwait to pay their respects. Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani arrived in Kuwait in the afternoon.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was also due to present condolences on behalf of President Ebrahim Raisi.

He would stress the importance of the development of bilateral relations in meetings with senior Kuwait officials, Iran’s foreign ministry said.

The president of regional power the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on X wished Kuwait’s new ruler success and said he would work with Sheikh Meshal to advance cooperation in the Gulf.

Sheikh Nawaf died on Saturday. He was 83 when he became emir in 2020, at the time the oldest ruler to take power in the Gulf state that was invaded and occupied by Iraq in 1990.

The late emir was perceived domestically as a consensus-builder who sought to repair a long-strained relationship between the parliament and government and who pardoned dozens of dissidents and other citizens who had voiced public criticisms.

Eid Abdullah Al Fraih, a 60-year-old Kuwaiti retiree, said he was captivated by the late emir’s humility and compassion and that he believed Sheikh Meshal would continue his predecessor’s efforts to improve ties between the government and parliament.

“Kuwait will be prosperous (under his reign). The (political and economic) situation will improve, God willing,” he said.

Under the constitution, the emir chooses his successor, the crown prince, but traditionally the ruling family convenes a meeting to build consensus. Parliament also has to approve it.

Rulers of other Gulf states such as Saud Arabia and the UAE have in recent years picked their own sons as their designated successors, signalling power would next pass to the next generation of the ruling family.

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