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Kuwait breaks from GCC on warming up to Israel

While Kuwait is joining its fellow GCC nations in terms of supporting Syria's return to the Arab League, Kuwaiti officials want nothing to do with Israel.
Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah attends a meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 30, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser - RC1E163FE170

Despite mostly opposing the regime of Bashar al-Assad during the Syrian Arab Spring, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have essentially come around to recognizing that it is most pragmatic to have ties with Damascus. The recent rapprochements of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with Assad’s regime underscore this trend, as do expectations that Kuwait will soon follow Manama and Abu Dhabi’s lead. Oman has maintained official ties with Damascus on all points since 2011.

This reacceptance of Syria plays out against the backdrop where GCC states have been moving toward increasingly normalized relations with Syria’s neighbor, Israel. Although a formal establishment of diplomatic relations between GCC members and the Jewish State might not be expected in the near term, assuming Israel continues refusing to recognize a Palestinian state, the Arab Gulf monarchies are warming up to Tel Aviv. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s historic visit to Oman in October, other Israeli government officials and athletes’ trips to Qatar and the UAE and the Saudi crown prince’s rhetoric about Israel and Palestine underscore the GCC states’ keenness to explore closer ties with Israel despite the political risks of doing so.

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