The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah passed away at the age of 91 on Tuesday, authorities confirmed.
“With great sadness and sorrow, we mourn as the Kuwaiti people, the Arab and Islamic nations, and the friendly people of the world, the death of the late His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Emir of the State of Kuwait. To God we belong and to God we will return,” Kuwait National News Agency [KUNA] reported.
Al-Sabah’s health has been deteriorating in recent weeks despite statements from Kuwait’s Emiri Diwan suggesting he was stable. The Kuwaiti Emir recently flew to the United States to complete medical treatment following a surgery for an unspecified condition.
Al-Sabah has ruled Kuwait since 2006. His death leaves a large gap in the Gulf region given his prominent role in numerous fields including human rights, economy, and most notably as a mediator between conflicting parties across the region.
Al-Sabah’s role in mediating the current Gulf crisis has been praised nationwide.
Turning Kuwait into the regional balancing power
In September, US President Donald Trump awarded the Kuwaiti Emir the Legion of Merit—an honour last awarded in 1991— in recognition of his efforts in the Gulf rift.
Al-Sabah has travelled back and forth around the region since Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt announced an end to all diplomatic ties with with Qatar in 2017.
The late leader exhibited the strength of Qatari-Kuwaiti relations in recent years, especially since the land, air and sea blockade.
“Sheikh Sabah Al-Sabah has a great stature in the heart of every Qatari citizen,” said Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, Qatar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs in a statement on Monday.
Before assuming the leading role of the country, Al-Sabah was Kuwait’s minister of foreign affairs and played a key role in establishing the country’s foreign policy and strengthening its political ties with a number of countries.
In 2014, he visited Iran to strengthen Tehran’s relations with Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia.
He also visited Iraq twice in the years 2012 and 2019, marking a new era between Kuwait City and Baghdad, despite then leader Saddam Hussein’s previous invasion of the Gulf nation.
Last year’s visit came amid rising tension between Iran and the US after Washington unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Next in line
Considering Kuwait’s political model, the next leader in the royal line is Al-Sabah’s half brother, Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al-Sabah.
Since the country’s constitution dictates that each new crown prince must be approved by a majority in the National Assembly, the question regarding who Sheikh Nawaf will choose to be his crown prince remains unanswered.