Oman, Day After Netanyahu Visit: We Are Very Optimistic About Trump's Peace Plan

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman, which neighbors Iran and has no diplomatic relations with Israel. 'Israel is a state present in this region and we all understand this,' Oman's minister responsible for foreign affairs said

Oman's Sultan Qaboos receives Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Muscat, Oman, October 26, 2018.
AP

Oman is offering ideas to help Israel and the Palestinians to come together but is not acting as mediator, Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, the sultanate's minister responsible for foreign affairs said on Saturday. 

Oman relies on the United States and efforts by President Donald Trump in working towards this "deal of the century" (Middle East peace), Alawi bin Abdullah told a security summit in Bahrain a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman

>> Netanyahu visits Oman, which has no diplomatic ties with Israel

Netanyahu with the sultan of Oman

"Israel is a state present in this region and we all understand this, the world is also aware of this fact and maybe it is time for Israel to be treated the same and also bear the same obligations. We are very optimistic about this Israel-Palestine proposal. Solution will be beneficial for Israelis and Palestinians alike," bin Alawi said. "We are not mediators in Israel-Palestine, but we offer facilitation and ideas to help two parties to come together, he added."

"We are not saying that the road is now easy and paved with flowers, but our priority is to put an end to the conflict and move to a new world," bin Alawi told the summit. 

Netanyahu with the sultan of Oman

The three-day summit was attended by Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and his counterparts in Italy and Germany also participated, but Jordan's King Abdullah cancelled his appearance after a flood that hit the Dead Sea region killed 21 people. 

Trump's Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt welcomed the "warming ties & growing cooperation between our regional friends" in a tweet late on Friday. 

"This is a helpful step for our peace efforts & essential to create an atmosphere of stability, security & prosperity between Israelis, Palestinians & their neighbors. Looking forward to seeing more meetings like this!" Greenblatt said. 

Netanyahu met with Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Friday. The meeting was the first of its kind between leaders of the two countries since 1996. Oman, which neighbors Iran, has no official diplomatic ties with Israel. Netanyahu was accompanied on Friday by senior officials, including the head of the Mossad intelligence agency and his national security adviser.

Netanyahu's rare visit to Oman came days after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas paid a three-day visit to the Gulf country and also met Omani leader Qaboos. 

Bahrain's foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa voiced support for Oman over the sultante's role in trying to secure Israeli-Palestinian peace, while Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir said the kingdom believes the key to normalising relations with Israel was the peace process. 

Netanyahu's office said the two sides discussed ways to achieve "peace and stability in the Middle East," adding that "the prime minister's visit is a significant step in implementing the policy outlined by Prime Minister Netanyahu on deepening relations with the states of the region while leveraging Israel's advantages in security, technology and economic matters."

Palestinian reports indicated that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also paid a visit to Oman earlier this week. Abbas paid his visit to Oman on October 21-23, and called it "successfull on all levels" in an interview to Palestinian TV. It remains unclear, however, whether he was aware Netanyahu was due to visit the country soon.

Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin made the first visit by an Israeli premier to Oman in 1994. In 1996, Rabin's successor, Shimon Peres, met with the sultan. Oman's foreign minister visited Israel in 1995. In 2008, then-Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met with Oman's foreign minister. 

Israel and some Gulf states share an interest in curbing Iran's influence in the region. 

Oman has long been to the Middle East what neutral Switzerland is to global diplomacy. The country helped to mediate secret U.S.-Iran talks in 2013 that led to the historic nuclear deal signed in Geneva two years later. 

Earlier this year, bin Alawi visited Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque and Netanyahu has on several occasions hinted at warmer ties with Gulf states. 

He told Israel's parliament last week that due to fears of a nuclear threat from Iran, "Israel and other Arab countries are closer than they ever were before." 

Earlier this week, the chief of general staff of Azerbaijan's armed forces arrived in Israel for his first official visit. Azerbaijani Chief of General Staff Najmaddin Sadigov met with his Israeli counterpart, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and other senior Israel Defense Forces officials.

Azerbaijan, Iran's northern neighbor, has maintained close ties with Israel in recent years. The decision to send the Azerbaijani chief of general staff for a first official visit to Israel is perceived in Jerusalem as a clear message being sent to Tehran.