Top Omani official meets Assad in rare Syria visit
Oman's top diplomat met Sunday with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Muscat said, in the Gulf official's second visit to the war-torn country since conflict broke out in 2011.
Oman's state minister for foreign affairs Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah met with Assad to discuss bilateral relations and regional security, the sultanate's foreign ministry said in a statement.
It added that Abdullah also met with Syrian regime foreign minister Walid Muallem.
Oman is one of the few Arab states to have maintained ties with the Syrian regime over the past eight years.
Syria was suspended from the Arab League in 2011 for its brutal crackdown on protests against Assad's rule, and fellow Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, announced support for the opposition.
Oman's Sultan Qaboos adheres to a strict policy of non-interference in regional affairs, maintaining relations with rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran - a key backer of Assad.
Abdullah visited Damascus in 2015, the Syrian regime's SANA news agency reported at the time, to discuss ways to "resolve the crisis in Syria".
During a visit to Oman last year, foreign minister Muallem praised Muscat for taking "supportive positions towards Syria at various Arab and international forums", the state-run Oman News Agency reported.
The Syrian regime’s ties with some Arab nations are on the rebound.
The United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus late last year after years of closure, and the Assad regime’s relations with Bahrain and Jordan have also improved.
But Saudi Arabia has not yet re-established ties with Assad, who has made a military comeback with support from Russia since 2015, gaining control of almost two-thirds of the country.
Syria's multi-fronted war has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions since it began with the repression of anti-Assad protests in 2011.
Most of the casualties have been as a result of regime bombardment of civilian areas.
Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab