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New Kuwait emir stresses unity in first speech

Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah succeeded his late brother Sheikh Sabah to become the new emir of Kuwait on Wednesday.
Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah (2-R) reads a statement asfter being sworn in as Kuwait's new Emir at the National Assembly in Kuwait City, as Parilament Speaker Marzouq al-Ghanem (L) looks on, on September 30, 2020. - Kuwait today swore in its new emir, Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, after the death of his half-brother, Sheikh Sabah, who died in the US at the age of 91. (Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat / AFP) (Photo by YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP via Getty Images)

Kuwait’s new leader, Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, was sworn in on Wednesday following the death of his brother, longtime ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, the day before.

The new leader called for domestic unity in his first speech as ruler of the Gulf state, the state-run Kuwait News Agency reported.

“Our nation is facing acute circumstances and critical challenges, which can only be overcome … by unifying ranks and working hard together,” Sabah told parliament upon his accession.

The deceased emir was respected by other world and regional leaders, including those on opposite sides of Middle Eastern conflicts. Both the United Arab Emirates and Qatar offered high praise for him following the death. “He painted an image of moderation and balance,” said Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Last week, US President Donald Trump presented the late Sabah with the prestigious Legion of Merit, Degree Chief Commander, in part for his role in mediating international crises.

Sabah will now be tasked with conducting Kuwait’s long tradition of an independent foreign policy. Most recently, Kuwait has mediated the dispute in the Gulf between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Sabah will also need to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kuwaiti government has taken an active role in mitigating the spread of the virus and has continuously updated health guidelines.

Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy. Power is divided between the emir, the prime minister appointed by the emir and their Cabinet, and the elected parliament. Sabah mourned his brother and focused on domestic issues in his speech.

“We affirm our keenness on our constitution and democratic practice, and we are proud that Kuwait is a state of law and institutions,” said Sabah.

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