H.E. Mr. Abdul-Rahman Al-Otaibi, Ambassador of Kuwait to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, talked about Dutch-Kuwaiti relations and his experience as Ambassador, during an exclusive conversation with Diplomat Magazine at the historical Hotel Des Indes in The Hague.
“Balance and stability are our focus; high quality education is our goal to build a new generation of Kuwaitis.”
Your Excellency, how do you see the role of Kuwait in the Middle East in the upcoming years?
Kuwait wants to open a new chapter with neighboring countries, promoting prosperity and peace in the region, helping other countries to meet each other, and opening productive dialogues. When our neighbors prosper, we prosper as well; when our neighbors are in peace, this will also impact Kuwait in a positive way. Peace and prosperity are extremely important for all, even if at the same time we do not want interference in the region.
In the region, Kuwait is part of the coalition against ISIS. This group is far away from Islamic rules and principles, and its main objectives are the destruction of national culture and the spreading of terror. This is the reason why we are part of the Coalition: to avoid that the group can expand its presence.
Our leader, His Highness the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Al Amal al Jaber Al-Sabah has been Minister of Foreign Affairs for 40 years, and he has been the Emir of Kuwait for 13 years. With his experience and wisdom, he is trying as much as he can to solve the disputes in the region, to mediate and to bring people to the negotiating table, avoiding escalations of any dispute.
What is the current situation domestically in Kuwait?
Kuwait is a democratic country, with our Constitution now turning 58 years old. Even since before the establishment of our Constitution, Kuwaitis have believed in values such as gender equality, as shown by women’s freedom to cover their head or not. Moreover, Kuwait’s new Minister of Economic Affairs is a woman, who previously was also Minister of Social Affairs, Minister of Economic Affairs and Minister of Education.
A new chapter in your life and your career is unfolding here in the Netherlands. What are your thoughts about this experience?
I presented my credentials as Ambassador of Kuwait to His Majesty the King in last October. However, this is my second time serving in this country, as I have been Counsellor to the Netherlands from 1993 to 1998. Moreover, I also served as Ambassador to Yemen and Japan and as Deputy in Egypt to the Arab League, as well as in India. When I was informed that I would come to the Netherlands again, my family and I were very happy. We have lots of good memories of the Netherlands, including the birth of one of our sons, and we still have many friends here.
How are the bilateral relations between Kuwait and the Netherlands?
The Netherlands is an important partner for Kuwait. We maintain a solid cooperation in the economic sector, and we enjoy a positive balance of trade, mainly due to a refinery we used to have in Rotterdam, which has been sold two years ago. We also have established offices of Kuwait Petroleum here, as well as the Q8 brand, to sell gas directly to customers.
Our first priority at the Embassy is to maintain our positive relationship with the Netherlands, but we also look for opportunities to improve this relation. Such improvements could materialize, for instance, in the sectors of water management and agricultural business, as Kuwait faces problems of water scarcity and relies on desalinization plants.
Moreover, we are currently working on the organization of a Kuwaiti-Dutch Business Council, with the aim of regrouping our different sectors of the economy, as well as promoting business on both sides.
Besides economic cooperation, which are the main areas in which you want to strengthen cooperation between your country and the Netherlands?
Currently, the government of Kuwait is increasing its focus on education. We are increasing the National Funds and we are investing abroad in human resources, in order to build the next generations with the best possible educational background. The Kuwaiti government also pays for higher education abroad, including in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. Many young Kuwaitis, for instance, come to Maastricht University and Leiden University to pursue their studies.
Moreover, our ambition is to foster a wide cultural cooperation among Kuwait and the Netherlands. English is a common language in both countries. Moreover, concerning cultural cooperation, Kuwait has a great collection of Islamic art. Some of these pieces have already been sent to Europe and Central Asia for exhibition, and so we are looking to foster cooperation in this sector by opening an Islamic art exhibition Center in the Netherlands.
In addition to that, the Kuwait Art Committee will also be opened, in order to organize exhibitions and to show our culture to the world, for instance through museums, cultural centers, and musical shows.
We hope that art and cultural initiatives will increase our people to people exchange, enabling citizens of both states to learn from each other.
The interview with H.E. Mr. Abdul-Rahman Al-Otaibi, has been held at Hotel del Indes an emblematic historic hotel in The Hague, symbol of Dutch beauty, tradition and class, charm and character, elegance and grandeur with more than 132 years of credentials: www.hoteldesindes.nl