Omani Official Visits Palestinian President Days After Netanyahu Meets Sultan

The sultan sent a letter to Abbas, possibly containing calming messages regarding normalization with Israel – an issue that worries the Palestinian Authority

Netanyahu with the sultan of Oman

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received a special emissary Sunday in Ramallah from Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said, a few days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a surprise visit to Oman.

A report by the official Palestinian news agency said that the Omani official, Salem bin Habib al-Omeiri, gave Abbas a personal letter from Qaboos. According to the report, the sultan thanked Abbas for his visit to Oman last week and stressed the importance of the ties between Oman and the PA.

Abbas, for his part, praised the relationship between the PA and Oman and the support Oman has given to the Palestinian people. Abbas visited Oman on October 21-23, and called it “successfull on all levels” in an interview to Palestinian TV.

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Ramallah took pains not to officially or openly criticize Netanyahu’s visit to Oman, but the Palestinian political world did not like the visit and the timing, to put it mildly. A Palestinian official close to Abbas told Haaretz that it cannot be ruled out that the Omani emissary therefore brought calming messages, mainly about the issue of normalization of ties with Israel. The PA expects all Arab countries to commit to the formula set in the Arab peace plan, whereby normalization of ties with Israel would occur only in exchange for a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders.

The day after Netanyahu's visit to the country, the sultanate's minister responsible for foreign affairs said that "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." He added: "We are very optimistic about this Israel-Palestine proposal. Solution will be beneficial for Israelis and Palestinians alike."

Netanyahu's meeting with the sultan 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, although a slight warming in relations followed the Oslo Accords in the 1990s.

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.

Minister Yisrael Katz, who holds the transportation and intelligence affairs portfolios, will be making an official visit in Oman next week. Katz will be visiting Oman for an international transportation convention, to which he says he was personally invited. This is the first time an Israeli minister is invited to a convention held in Oman, a fact that attests to the warming of ties between the two countries.

On Sunday, Netanyahu said his visit to Oman "comes against the background of diplomatic efforts that I have been promoting in recent years vis-a-vis the Arab countries." Netanyahu said he and Omani leader Sultan Qaboos bin Said "discussed in detail the challenges facing the Middle East. These were important talks - both for the State of Israel" and its security, adding there would be more talks in future.