Abbas meets with Omani delegation on opening West Bank diplomatic mission
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Netanyahu was hosted in Oman last year

Abbas meets with Omani delegation on opening West Bank diplomatic mission

PA president affirms importance of Muscat having a representative office for the Palestinians, says it will strengthen bilateral ties

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Omani Ambassador to Jordan Khamis bin Mohammed al-Faris embracing each other in Ramallah on August 6, 2019. (Credit: Wafa)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Omani Ambassador to Jordan Khamis bin Mohammed al-Faris embracing each other in Ramallah on August 6, 2019. (Credit: Wafa)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday welcomed to Ramallah a delegation of Omani Foreign Ministry officials, who were in the West Bank to follow up on the procedures required to open a diplomatic mission to the Palestinians, the official PA news agency Wafa reported.

The Omani Foreign Ministry announced in a statement on its Twitter account in late June that Muscat decided to open “a new diplomatic mission in the State of Palestine at the level of an embassy.”

During his meeting with the delegation of Omani officials, Abbas “affirmed the importance of opening an embassy for [Oman] in Palestine, a matter that will contribute to strengthening bilateral relations in a way that serves the interests of the two countries,” the Wafa report said.

Last month, Majdi al-Khaldi, Abbas’s diplomatic affairs adviser, and the PA Foreign Ministry welcomed Oman’s decision to open a mission in Ramallah.

At the time, however, Palestine Liberation Organization official Hanan Ashrawi expressed more caution about Muscat’s decision to open the representative office to the Palestinians.

“We think maybe first of all it will help us educate the Omani government as to the real nature of the occupation and also working with Palestine directly,” she told reporters then, while warning Oman against using the new embassy as a step toward establishing formal relations with Israel.

“If this has a political price attached then certainly there will be ramifications,” she said.

The Muqata’a in Ramallah, headquarters of the Palestinian Authority (Wikimedia Commons/PalestinianLiberator/File)

Days after Ashrawi’s comments, Mossad chief Yossi Cohen told the Herzliya Conference, hosted by the Interdisciplinary Center: “Just recently, renewal of formal relations with Oman was declared and the establishment of a representative office of the Foreign Ministry in that country.”

But Oman subsequently denied it was establishing relations with Israel, with its foreign ministry stating it in a tweet in early July that such claims were “baseless.”

Four Arab states currently have diplomatic offices in Ramallah: Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco.

Khaldi, Abbas’s adviser, said that Oman operated a diplomatic office in the West Bank in the 1990s but later closed it.

Jordan and Egypt are the sole two Arab states to maintain formal diplomatic ties and peace treaties with Israel.

The Palestinians operate an embassy in Muscat.

Asked whether Oman had coordinated its decision to open a diplomatic office to the Palestinians with Israel, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in late June that it was not aware of the matter.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (SL), acompanied by his wife Sara, is greeted by Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Oman on October 26, 2018 (Courtesy)

Even though Oman does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Muscat in October 2018 and met Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said there.

Before Netanyahu’s trip last year, no Israeli premier had been known to have visited Oman in more than two decades.

AFP contributed to this article.

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