Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes secret Oman visit

Israel's Netanyahu meets Sultan Qaboos in surprise Oman trip

Israel's Netanyahu meets Sultan Qaboos in surprise Oman trip

Netanyahu's visit to Oman was the second by an Israeli prime minister, the first having been made in 1994 by late Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin.

The sultanate has long had a quiet role in fostering negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians and has openly called for the need for a Palestinian state while also acknowledging a need for an Israeli state.

"A special visit in Oman - we're making history!"

The comment followed a rare visit by Netanyahu to Oman, the first by an Israeli leader in over two decades, and a sign of warming ties between the Jewish state and the Sunni Arab world.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also paid a three-day visit to Oman earlier this week.

In a joint statement issued after Netanyahu's returned home, the Israeli leader and Sultan Qaboos said 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".

Israel and Oman do not have formal diplomatic relations. Despite vocal opposition by Israel and disapproval of several Sunni countries including Saudi Arabia, the deal offered Iran relief from worldwide sanctions in exchange for its scaling back of parts of its nuclear program.

Israel now has full diplomatic relations with only two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan.

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The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media. Peaceful coexistenceAlawi, in his speech, pointed out that "The Sultanate is willing to exert all possible efforts for the restoration of a climate of optimism to reach a comprehensive accord that takes into account a future of peaceful coexistence in the Middle East, and for the Palestinian and Israeli generations".

The Palestinian areas would be demilitarised, and Israel would have control over the borders and airspace.

"Israel is a state present in the region, and we all understand this". The US has also cut funding to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees and shuttered the Palestinian Liberation Organization office in Washington.

The US has not released details of the plan, but it is widely expected to include a role for Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

Mossad director Yossi Cohen, National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, Foreign Ministry director-general Yuval Rotem, PMO chief of staff Yigal Horowitz and Prime Minister's military secretary Brigadier General Avi Bluth accompanied Netanyahu and his wife on the visit.

Oman, a country of about four and a half million people on the southeastern coast of the Arabian peninsula, has always been one of the few Arab states not to shy away from open ties with Israel.

In recent years, Netanyahu has insisted that relations between Israel and Gulf countries have been growing, despite none of the seven Gulf states officially recognising Israel. Although it is a member of the Saudi-led six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, it did not join the kingdom in its boycott of Qatar or the war in Yemen. But he rarely publicizes these contacts or identifies his partners.

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