Following Netanyahu visit, senior Israeli minister to head to Oman

Transportation chief Israel Katz will travel to Muscat next week to participate in international conference, present plan for train line between Jewish state and Gulf

Transportation Minister Israel Katz in front of a map of the proposed rail network on April 5, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Transportation Minister Israel Katz in front of a map of the proposed rail network on April 5, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Sunday that Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz will embark on a visit to Oman next week, days after the premier made his own trip to the Sultanate last week in the first official meeting between the leaders of the countries since 1996.

Katz will attend an international transportation conference in Muscat upon personal invitation by his Omani counterpart and the organizers of the conference, a spokesperson for the minister confirmed.

During the visit, Katz will present the regional transportation initiative, which he is advancing jointly with Netanyahu.

The initiative,called “Tracks for Regional Peace,” is aimed at connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Arabian Gulf by rail via Israel as a land bridge and Jordan as a regional transportation hub.

This is the first time an Israeli minister has been formally invited to participate in an international conference in Oman, reflecting the strengthening ties between the two countries.

Israel and Oman on Friday confirmed Netanyahu’s trip to Muscat, the first such visit by an Israeli leader in 22 years. Israel and Oman do not have formal diplomatic relations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) talks with Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Oman on October 26, 2018 (Courtesy)

Netanyahu frequently boasts of warming behind-the-scenes ties with Arab countries. In another sign of those ties, Israel’s sports minister Miri Regev was in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday for an international judo competition.

On Friday afternoon, Netanyahu’s office unexpectedly announced that he and his wife Sara had just returned from an “official diplomatic visit” to Muscat, during which they met with Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office called the trip “a significant step in implementing the policy outlined by Prime Minister Netanyahu on deepening relations with the states of the region while leveraging Israel’s advantages in security, technology and economic matters.”

The last visit by an Israeli leader to Oman took place in 1996, when Shimon Peres visited.

The Netanyahus were invited to Oman by the sultan, who has been ruling the Gulf state since 1970, “after lengthy contacts between the two countries,” the statement said.

A joint statement issued by Jerusalem and Muscat said the two leaders discussed “ways to advance the peace process in the Middle East as well as several matters of joint interest regarding the achievement of peace and stability in the Middle East.”

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