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Kuwait emir travels to Saudi Arabia for first foreign visit

Relations with Saudi Arabia are a priority for Kuwait's new emir.
Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah gestures as he delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the 17th parliamentary term at the National Assembly in Kuwait City on Oct. 18, 2022.

Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah visited Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, his first trip since ascending the throne, in an effort to maintain good ties between the two Gulf monarchies. 

Sheikh Sabah held talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, often referred to by his initials MBS, on bilateral relations, cooperation within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and unspecified international issues. The emir’s delegation included a variety of members of the Sabah royal family, the official Kuwait News Agency reported.

The emir additionally met with Saudi King Salman, according to the Saudi Foreign Ministry.

The visit marks Sheikh Sabah’s first international trip. He ascended the throne in December following the death of his half-brother Sheikh Nawaf.

Why it matters: The Kuwaiti-Saudi relationship is important to both countries, making it no surprise that Sheikh Sabah made his first foreign visit to the kingdom. Reuters reported in December that Sheikh Sabah views relations with Saudi Arabia as a priority due to his desire for regional stability.

Saudi Arabia exported $2.04 billion to Kuwait in 2021, with the top export being refined petroleum. Kuwait exported $846 million to Kuwait in 2021, with cars as the top export, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity.

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait remain united in their unresolved dispute with Iran over the Durra gas field. In October, an official from the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation said the field is expected to be fully commissioned by 2029.

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia may be headed in somewhat different directions with regard to oil production. In October, Kuwait said it is aiming for a 4-million-barrels-per-day (bpd) production capacity in 2035, up from 2.9 million bpd at present.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia ordered Aramco to halt its plans to raise oil production capacity to 13 million bpd and stay at the current level of 12 million bpd.

Know more: Kuwaitis notably have a favorable view of the Saudi government. According to an April 2023 Gallup poll, 65% of Kuwaitis voiced their approval of Saudi Arabia’s leadership.