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The heavy price of PLOs support for Saddam

Thousands of Palestinians were forced to leave Kuwait as a result

Gulf News

Manama: The Palestinian embassy in Kuwait City was closed in 1990 in the wake of a deep Kuwaiti-Palestinian rift following sharp differences over the invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussain.

Iraqi military forces rolled into Kuwait on August 2, 1990, prompting the United Nations Security Council to pass Resolution 660 condemning the invasion. One week later, the Council passed Resolutions 661 and 662 that authorised the use of military force to liberate Kuwait.

However, the PLO and Palestinians in general saw Saddam as a hero who in the mould of Egypt’s president Jamal Abdul Nasser publicly defied the Western powers’ Middle East policy and threatened to wipe out Israel.

When under international pressure, Saddam, in a deceptive announcement, said that he would withdraw from Kuwait if Israel pulled out of occupied Arab territories, Palestinians cheered him and openly supported him against the international coalition forces.

The Palestinians’ open support angered the Kuwaitis keen on the liberation of their country and they felt betrayed by their pro-Saddam attitudes.

Following its liberation in February 1991, Kuwait cut off ties with the PLO, froze its financial backing and expelled a large number of Palestinians from the country. The wound in bilateral relations started to heal only 14 years later after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas apologised in December 2004 for the Palestinian stances in 1990 towards the Iraqi invasion.

“We apologise to Kuwait and the Kuwaiti people for what we did,” Abbas told reporters after arriving in the state on the first visit to Kuwait by a senior Palestinian official since relations were suspended.

Relations have since evolved and Kuwait has announced multi-million dollar donations to Palestinians, contributing millions to projects supporting Palestinian development.

In August last year, Khalid Al Jarallah, Kuwait’s foreign ministry undersecretary, said that Kuwait and the Palestinian National Authority had reached an agreement on re-opening the embassy.

In October, Rami Ihsan Tahboob took the oath as the first Palestinian ambassador to Kuwait in more than 22 years.