Published: Sat, October 27, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Netanyahu discusses peace process with Sultan of Oman in rare secret visit

Netanyahu discusses peace process with Sultan of Oman in rare secret visit

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a secret one-day trip to Oman on Friday, where he met with the ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who has led his country for almost 50 years.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday paid a surprise visit to Oman.

The meeting was the first of its kind between leaders of the two countries since 1996.

While historic, Netanyahu's meeting did not immediately signal a breakthrough in peace efforts because Oman does not have the clout or leverage of nations like Saudi Arabia to strongly advocate for either side or to push them closer to the negotiating table.

"Oman is trying to play a regional role between the various parties and axes in the region, and it sees Israel as an important player in various regional issues", the diplomat told Middle East Eye on condition of anonymity.

According to officials, the two leaders discussed ways to take the peace process forward in the Middle East.

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

Earlier this week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also visited the Persian Gulf Arab state for three days.

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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.

The spokesman added that the Donald Trump administration has increased pressure on Muslim countries to normalize diplomatic ties with Israel.

Joining Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, were Mossad Director Yossi Cohen; National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat; Foreign Ministry Director General Yuval Rotem; Netanyahu Chief of Staff Yoav Horowitz; and Col. Avi Blot, Netanyahu's military secretary.

However, Netanyahu and senior officials have in recent months boasted of secret ties with Arab states, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Though uncommon, Israeli leaders have previously visited the Gulf state.

Oman has a foreign policy of non-interference and has played a mediating role in a region crisscrossed by rivalries and conflicts.

In 1996, then-prime minister, the late Shimon Peres, visited Oman and Qatar and opened Israel Trade Representations in both Gulf states.

Muscat, however, suspended relations again following the outbreak of the second Palestinian Intifada in 2000.

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