By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Kuwaiti Ambassador to Mexico Salah Alhaddad and his wife Manhal Alshehab marked a double celebration on Thursday, Feb. 23 — the 62nd anniversary of their country’s independence from Britain and the 32nd anniversary of its liberation from Iraq — with a lavish diplomatic reception and sit-down luncheon at Mexico City’s Westin Santa Fe Hotel.
The tiny, oil-rich nation, the world’s 20th-largest economy by GDP per capita, was a British protectorate from 1899 until 1961, when it finally gained its independence.
Then, in 1990, Iraqi forces invaded and attempted to annex Kuwait, leading to a United Nations coalition helping to drive out the the intruders.
Today, Kuwait is generally considered to be an oasis of peace and security amid an otherwise turbulent region.
In his speech, delivered first in Arabic and then in Spanish, Alhaddad spoke about Kuwait’s global economic development fund, which has provided more than 1,000 loans to 105 countries, for a total of nearly $22 billion.
Alhaddad said that Kuwait’s external relations are solidly based on the principles of friendship, peace and human development within the framework of cooperation through regional and international forums to establish worldwide security and stability.
The ambassador also pointed out that Kuwait has always taken a vanguard role in offering humanitarian aid where needed — a stature that won the country’s late emir, Sheik Sabah IV al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, the United Nations’ title of Humanitarian Leader of the World in 2014 — and he expressed his country’s solidarity with Turkey and Syria following the tragic loss of more than 40,000 people in the 7.8-magnitude earthquake on Feb. 7.
Turning to bilateral relations with Mexico, he noted that the two countries established formal diplomatic relations in 1975,opening reciprocal embassies in 2010 and 2011.
In recent years, the two countries have signed binational agreements on economic cooperation, the avoidance of double taxation and reciprocal investment protection, as well as cooperation protocols in the energy, air transport, tourism, law, communications, cultural and education sectors.
Notwithstanding, combined two-way trade remains low, at about $70 million annually, although Kuwait has been pushing to increase that figure through encouraging an expanded portfolio of Mexican agricultural exports to the Middle East.
“I am confident the our mutual friendship and commercial ties with Mexico will continue to grow in the years ahead,” Alhaddad said.
After the speech, the guests were invited to a lavish lunch of traditional Middle Eastern cuisine.