DUBAI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Friday with the new ruler of Oman, a Gulf Arab country that has close ties with both Washington and Tehran and that has previously provided a back channel for talks between the adversaries.
Pompeo’s stop in Oman to meet Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said is the highest level US visit to the country since he was selected successor to longtime ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who died Jan. 10 after 50 years in power.
Oman supported the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement with Iran and world powers, from which President Donald Trump withdrew the US.
Oman, like other Gulf Arab countries, is concerned that rising tensions in the region and the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran could harm tourism and economic growth, and impact the flow of oil through the narrow Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman.
The new sultan of Oman has v owed to uphold his predecessor’s foreign policy approach, which was based on non-interference. Oman did not join Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in their war in Yemen, keeping its border open with the impoverished country. It also did not join in a Saudi and UAE-led blockade against Qatar. While a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Oman has maintained ties with Iran and hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a surprise visit in late 2018.
Oman’s foreign affairs minister, Yusuf bin Alawi Abdullah, greeted Pompeo upon his arrival in Muscat on Friday. He has been quoted as saying that his government is in touch with the U.S. and Iran and believes the possibility exists for dialogue between them.
Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2020