Dubai: Oman’s foreign ministry has refuted rumours about the country’s desire to leave the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and hold referendum on its membership in the bloc akin to that held in the UK last week.
On Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on its Twitter account that the British people “took a courageous decision to leave the EU, which some would explain as a decisive reaction to some of the policies imposed by European Commission”.
The tweet, which went viral in Oman and the Gulf, was widely interpreted as a jab at the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which Oman is a member but is at odds with it on certain policy issues.
Ishaq Al Siyabi, former vice-chairman of the Shura Council, chimed in by tweeting on Friday his hopes for Oman to hold a similar referendum determining its fate in the GCC. “The GCC hasn’t achieved all the goals in the past years and the GCC people do not feel the direct results of that amid the security and political differences between the Gulf states,” he said.
An unnamed official at the foreign ministry told Kuwait’s Al Rai newspaper that the possibility of holding a similar referendum was not raised in Oman or the wider Gulf region.
“This is street talk and not that of officials and politicians,” the official said, adding that the spread of the rumours on social media was “intolerable”.
The official pointed out that statements of Omani officials about Britain leaving EU are a tribute to the British democratic mechanism. “I assure the people of the GCC that any ideas concerning the disintegration of the GCC have not been discussed, and Gulf states are moving in the direction of unified processes and the strengthening of ties for the longer term,” said the official.
The foreign ministry’s original congratulatory tweet was harshly criticised by Omanis on social media as being irresponsible, impartial, and inviting the scorn of fellow Gulf citizens.
“For the millionth time we say that government social media accounts need to be run [professionally], particularly this [foreign ministry] account,” tweeted Almutasim Al Bahlani, a prominent Omani Twitter personality and editor-in-chief of Al Falq magazine.
Following the social media controversy, the foreign ministry issued an official statement on Saturday saying that Oman respects the decision of British people to exit from European Union.
“Oman expresses its trust that Britain will continue its international role to support safety, security and boost economic development,” said the spokesperson.
At the same time, Oman affirmed on the historic friendship between the two countries and their bilateral relations in different fields.
Despite being a founding member of the GCC, Oman has in recent years been at odds with some of its policies and those of its member states. It has publicly opposed a Saudi proposal to turn the GCC into a union of Gulf states and was the only member state not to partake in the war to restore the rule of the Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi government in Yemen. It is also the GCC state with the closest ties to Iran, a rival of Saudi Arabia, and it played a pivotal role in bringing Iran and the United States together in secret negotiations that led to the nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers.