WASHINGTON — Kuwait's ruler said Friday he asked President Barack Obama to speed the process of releasing two countrymen held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Obama earlier this year announced a renewed effort to close the facility, a goal he originally set at the beginning of his presidency in 2009, saying its existence has darkened America's image abroad while costing the U.S. tens of millions of dollars that could be better spent at home. Congress thus far has thwarted his efforts.
Kuwait's Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah said he discussed the continued detention of the Kuwaiti detainees with Obama during an Oval Office meeting "and asked President Obama to speed up the process of releasing them in line with the president's commitment of closing down Guantanamo."
Obama did not mention Guantanamo during remarks by both leaders to the media after the meeting. The civil war in Syria topped the list of discussion points, Obama said, adding that they also talked about peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, Iraq and other regional economic issues.
Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said afterward that Obama reiterated to the emir his commitment to closing Guantanamo and stressed that the U.S. shares the goal of seeing the detainees returned to Kuwait.
The governments also agreed to have a Kuwaiti delegation travel to Washington and Guantanamo for further discussions on the matter, she said. No dates were given.
"The United States is committed to remaining engaged with Kuwait on this issue and to achieving the conditions necessary to facilitate the responsible transfer of these two individuals," Hayden said.
Kuwait's two remaining prisoners at Guantanamo – Faez al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah – have been accused of belonging to a terrorist group. Kuwait has built a rehabilitation center to reintegrate them into society, but it sits idle.
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