Muscat - Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman Friday, the first official trip by an Israeli leader to the Gulf nation since 1996, for surprise talks with its Sultan Qaboos Bin Said on the stalled peace process with the Palestinians.
The visit wasn’t made public until Netanyahu was back in Israel around 4pm local time.
Netanyahu, who went to Oman with his wife as well as Mossad intelligence agency director Yossi Cohen, said the visit was aimed at “tightening relations with other nations in the region, while leveraging Israel’s strengths in security, technology and finance.” He said the meeting was the result of “extensive” contacts between the two nations.
Netanyahu’s visit came four days after Sultan Qaboos received Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Muscat.
The meeting reviewed the latest developments regarding the Palestinian issue, the US recognition of occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relations between the two countries and ways to enhance them, Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.
Palestinian officials said that the visit followed an invitation from Sultan Qaboos.
Although there are no full details about whether the two visits were part of an Omani mediation to help find solutions to deadlocked issues between the Palestinians and the Israelis, it highlighted the attempts by Oman, which has traditionally sought to play a conciliator role in a turbulent region, to contribute to resolving challenging and complex situations.
Sultan Qaboos and Netanyahu “discussed ways to push forward the peace process in the Middle East as well as some issues of mutual interest that would serve peace and stability in the region,” according to identical statements sent by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and the state-run Oman news agency.
Qaboos, who rarely appears in public, was seen walking in a hallway with Netanyahu and his wife, Sara. Qaboos’s office issued a video clip of the meeting with the 69-year-old Israeli leader.
The only two Arab states that recognise Israel are Egypt and Jordan, though relations are bumpy and Netanyahu is rarely seen publicly in either country.