‘Wise leader’: World reacts to Kuwait ruler Sheikh Sabah’s death

The 91-year-old late monarch has been hailed as ‘the emir of humanity’ and a ‘wise leader’ by his contemporaries.

Kuwait''s Emir Sheikh Sabah al Ahmad al Sabah is pictured as he leaves parliament session in Kuwait City
World leaders have praised Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah for his efforts at diplomacy [File: Stephanie McGehee/Reuters]

Tributes and condolences poured in from across the Arab world for Kuwait’s late ruler, Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah as several countries in the Gulf and wider region announced periods of mourning.

The 91-year-old monarch, who died in a hospital in the United States after being there for medical care since July, has been hailed as “the emir of humanity” and a “wise leader” by his counterparts.

His half-brother, 83-year-old Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, has been announced as the new emir by the country’s cabinet.

Having steered Kuwait’s foreign policy for more than 50 years, Sheikh Sabah’s role as leader of Kuwait since 2006 was also marked by efforts to calm regional disputes.

He maintained good ties with Iran, which is considered a rival by many nations in the Gulf, and maintained ties to Qatar when several other Gulf nations severed ties dramatically in 2017.

Regional leaders mourned the emir.

“Today we lost a great brother and a wise leader … who spared no effort for Arab unity,” Jordan’s King Abdullah said on Twitter as he announced a 40-day mourning period in the kingdom starting on Tuesday.

Translation: Today we lost a great brother and a wise leader who loved Jordan. His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad, may God have mercy on him, was an exceptional leader and Emir of humanity and morals, and devoted his life to the service of his country and his nation. He did not hesitate in his benevolent endeavours to make every effort to unite the Arab ranks.

Leaders of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt also mourned Sheikh Sabah saying he was a great leader, and each announced a three-day mourning period.

“The Arab and Muslim world has lost one of its most valuable leaders,” Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said in a tweet.

Translation: I mourn with great sadness and sorrow the death of the late Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah. The Arab and Islamic world has lost a leader of its most precious men.

Bahrain said Kuwait had lost a “wise leader, an emir of humanity who loved what is good for the people”.

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani announced a three-day mourning period for his country, with flags to be lowered at half-mast.

Sheikh Tamim described the late Kuwaiti leader as “a great leader who was wise, moderate and long-term oriented, and dedicated his life to serving his country”.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Qatar’s ambassador to Russia, Fahad Al Attiyah, said the late ruler’s greatest quality was “his integrity and commitment to truth”.

“Sheikh Sabah had demonstrated he was a man who sought to listen to others and give them the time to hear their grievances,” Al Attiyah said, speaking from Moscow. “All these qualities made him the person that people trusted with their issues.”

Even Yemen’s rival sides – who have yet to reach a political solution to the years-long war – paid tribute to the emir on Tuesday.

Yemen’s Foreign Minister Mohammad al-Hadhrami offered his “sincere, heartfelt, condolences to our brothers in Kuwait” on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Houthi rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam tweeted that the rebels “will never forget [the emir’s] position in support of peace negotiations … love for Yemen and keenness to extinguish the fire of war”.

Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also mourned the Kuwaiti leader, praising his “achievements and endeavours” to serve his country and the region.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also wrote a tweet in Arabic expressing his sorrow and condolences for Sabah’s death.

Translation: With great sadness and sorrow, we have received the news of the death of the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah. On behalf of the Turkish people, I express my condolences and sincere sympathy to the brotherly Kuwaiti people, asking God Almighty to bless the deceased with his mercy.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described Sabah as “an extraordinary symbol of wisdom and generosity, a messenger of peace, a bridge-builder”.

Mary Robinson, chair of the international non-governmental organisation of public figures known as The Elders, described Sheikh Sabah as “a force for moderation, reason, and continuity”.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump awarded the US Legion of Merit, Degree Chief Commander, to Sheikh Sabah in what the White House said was the first time the honour had been given since 1991. The emir’s eldest son, Sheikh Nasser, accepted the award.

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of my dear friend… Sheikh Sabah was an unwavering friend and partner to the United States,” Trump said in a statement.

“The emir was an unparalleled diplomat having served as foreign minister for 40 years. His tireless mediation of disputes in the Middle East bridged divides under the most challenging circumstances. I hope that the Gulf nations will come together to honour his legacy and work toward the cooperative future he envisioned.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies