Published: Sun, October 28, 2018
World News | By Laverne Osborne

Israel's Netanyahu pays historic surprise visit to Oman

Israel's Netanyahu pays historic surprise visit to Oman

Bahrain foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmed al Khalifa said his country supports Oman's vision of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, while his Saudi Arabian counterpart called the peace process "the key" to normalizing its relations with Israel.

The visit came at the invitation of Sultan Qaboos and followed "lengthy contacts between the two countries", the statement said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a surprise visit to the Gulf state of Oman on Friday.

Akiva Eldar, a senior columnist for Al-Monitor, told Al Jazeera that Netanyahu's visit to Muscat was meant to send a message to Gulf states that the "Saudis were not the only game in town".

The joint statement issued at the end of the visit, from which the Prime Minister's Office did not directly quote, said the meetings featured talks on "ways to advance the peace process in the Middle East as well as several matters of joint interest regarding the achievement of peace and stability in the Middle East".

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been stalled for almost a decade and US President Donald Trump's much vaunted peace plan is yet to be released. Days before Netanyahu's visit, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also visited Oman, raising the possibility that Oman might be trying to help revive negotiations or push forward a troubled United States peace plan.

"Israel is a state present in the region, and we all understand this", bin Alawi said.

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Unusually, the trip was prominently highlighted in Oman's state media.

It is the first trip made by an Israeli prime minister since Shimon Peres in 1996.

Netanyahu, along with a delegation, including Yossi Cohen, the director of the Mossad spy agency, and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, arrived in Muscat on Thursday night and flew back to the occupied Palestinian territories later on Friday, making it the first such meeting in over 20 years.

Netanyahu has repeatedly stated in recent years that Israel has developed good relations with several Arab states, despite a lack of official ties.

Oman closed the trade representative offices in October 2000 after the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada.

Oman has a history of helping to mediate Middle Eastern conflicts, though it has never had consistent diplomatic relations with Israel.

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