Israel PM Netanyahu makes surprise 'historic visit' to Oman

Israel PM Netanyahu makes surprise 'historic visit' to Oman
2 min read
26 October, 2018
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Oman's Sultan Qaboos met in Muscat for the first meeting of its kind between leaders of the two countries since 1996.
Binyamin Netanyahu's office said the meeting was arranged after lengthy communications [AFP]

The office of Binyamin Netanyahu said on Friday that the  Israeli prime minister has returned from a short visit to the Gulf state of Oman.

Netanyahu's office said in a statement that Netanyahu, who is currently facing a graft probe that could unseat him from power, had been invited by Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said after lengthy communications.

Israel and Oman do not have diplomatic relations. The meeting was the first of its kind between leaders of the two countries since 1996.

The two leaders issued a joint statement saying the two sides "discussed ways to advance the Middle East peace process and discussed a number of issues of mutual interest to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East."

Netanyahu's rare visit to the Gulf state comes amid a sustained period of what analysts say is a warming in relations between Israel and several Arab states.

In August, Israel's prime minister said that a "normalisation" of relations with Arab states could lead to Middle East peace, as the region now faces an emboldened Iran.

"Many Arab countries now see Israel not as their enemy but as their indispensable ally in pushing back Iranian aggression," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with Lithuania's LRT public broadcaster which aired on Monday.

"This has created normalisation which can lead to peace. I believe that if we have peace with the broader Arab world, it will help us get to peace with the Palestinians," he added in the interview taped during his visit to the Baltic state - the first-ever by an Israeli premier - that ended on Sunday.

Israel has peace treaties with just two Arab countries, Egypt and Jordan, while others insist on an agreement with the Palestinians as a prerequisite that would pave the way to formal relations.

Earlier this year Saudi Arabia's King Salman reaffirmed "steadfast" support for the Palestinian cause after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signalled a shift in the country's approach.

In May, Israel's ambassador to Egypt described Crown Prince Mohammed as a partner of Israel, further fuelling speculation that the powerful prince has been engaging in secret talks with Israel.