Assad Holds Talks in Kuwait amid Improving Ties with Baghdad
Syrian President Bashar Al Assad held talks in Kuwait Saturday with Crown Prince Sheikh Saad Abdullah Al Sabah and other top Kuwaiti officials, reports said.
Assad’s visit to the Gulf emirate, which had been postponed earlier, came days after Damascus and Baghdad’s ties witnessed a remarkable improvement after more than two decades of enmity.
Syrian Prime Minsiter Mustafa Miro last week visited Baghdad, where he signed ten cooperation agreements. Earlier, the two countries had signed a free trade zone agreement, and a railway line had been activated.
But Kuwaiti officials quoted in news reports said that the visit of the president, the first since he assumed power a year ago, had nothing to do with Syrian-Iraqi rapprochement.
A top Kuwaiti official told reporters that his country, which was invaded by Iraq in the 1990-1991 Gulf War, differentiated between the Iraqi regime and the people of Iraq. He said Kuwait supported any movement that helped eliminate the suffering of the Iraqis.
Apart from his meeting with Sheikh Saad, who is also prime minister, Assad met in the early evening with Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, the official KUNA news agency said, but did not elaborate on the talks, according to AFP.
The foreign minister said that the emirate was unaware of an initiative by Assad to hold a three-way meeting between Iraq, Kuwait and Syria, according to a report in the daily Al Seyassah newspaper on Saturday.
Meanwhile, KUNA reported Sunday that Acting Kuwait Parliament Speaker Mubarak Al Khreinej had said Saturday that his country would never interfere in inter-Arab relations and asserted that Miro's visit to Baghdad was "an internal Syrian-Iraqi affair."
Speaking to reporters after receiving Assad, Khreinej said Kuwait’s position was brushing aside all allegations that it was against the inter-Arab reunion.
Whether there is a Syrian role or promises to solve the issue of Kuwaiti prisoners in Iraq, Khreinej said, "there are no promises."
However, the speaker said he hoped to "hear new news from President Al Assad over the release of our prisoners."
Kuwait says Iraq has been holding over 600 Kuwaiti and third-country national prisoners since the war.
The Syrian leader was earlier met at the airport by Emir Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmad Al Sabah, as well as the crown prince and other top Kuwaiti officials.
The two-day visit is expected focus on the Israeli-Arab conflict and political and economic cooperation between the two Arab nations.
Kuwait and Syria last week signed three cooperation agreements on administration, agriculture and investment at the end of a joint ministerial meeting held in Damascus.
Over the past three decades, said AFP, the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development granted Syria over $1 billion in loans for development projects, most of which came after the 1990 Iraqi invasion of the oil-rich emirate.
Syria fought alongside a US-led coalition which ousted Iraqi occupation troops from Kuwait in the Gulf War. But Damascus and Baghdad started to normalize ties in 1997 with the restoration of economic links.
In January, Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq Al Shara, who is accompanying Assad, renewed his country's support for the territorial integrity of Kuwait, following claims to the territory in Iraq's official press – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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