Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned from an official visit to Oman, where he met with Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, his office said Friday. Oman has no official diplomatic ties with Israel, although a slight warming in relations followed the Oslo Accords in the 1990s. The visit came days after an official visit to Oman by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The meeting was the first of its kind between leaders of the two countries since 1996.
Netanyahu and his wife were invited to visit by the sultan after lengthy contacts between the two countries, the Prime Minister Office's said in a statement. Netanyahu flew to Oman, which neighbors Iran, on Thursday and spent the night there before returning to Israel.
The Prime Minister'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."
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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.
Joining Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, were Mossad Director Yossi Cohe,; National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, Foreign Ministry Director General Yuval Rotem, Netanyahu Chief of Staff Yoav Horowitz and Col. Avi Blot, the prime minister's military secretary.
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.