No ‘normalization’ with Israel before Palestinian statehood, Omani FM says

Despite recent warming relations, Yusuf bin Alawi says two-state solution a precondition for full diplomatic ties

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and Oman's Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah enter a hall for talks in Moscow, Russia, February 18, 2019. (AP Photo/ Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and Oman's Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah enter a hall for talks in Moscow, Russia, February 18, 2019. (AP Photo/ Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Despite the historic meetings that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held in recent months with Omani leader Sultan Qaboos bin Said and his foreign minister, Yusuf bin Alawi, the latter asserted Monday that Oman will not normalize its relations with Israel until a sovereign Palestinian state has been established.

Asked to describe the status of the warming relations, bin Alawi said, “There is no normalization of relations with Israel, but rather an ongoing diplomatic process aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the Palestinian problem.”

“The establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state is a basic condition for any normalization or future relationship between the Arab region and Israel,” he said at a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow.

Netanyahu met with bin Alawi on Wednesday, on the sidelines of Warsaw’s Middle East conference, vaunting the recent rapprochement between the two countries.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) greets Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah at the sidelines of a regional conference on the Middle East in Warsaw, February 13, 2018. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

“I have to tell you that the courageous decision of Sultan Qaboos to invite me to Oman is changing the world,” Netanyahu said, referring to his October 2018 visit to Muscat. “It’s paving the way for many others to do what you said — not to be stuck in the past but to seize the future.”

“Indeed, this is an an important, new vision for the future,” the Omani foreign minister responded, speaking in English. “People in the Middle East have suffered a lot, because they have [been stuck in] the past. This is a new era for the future, and for prosperity for all the nations.”

Netanyahu’s visit to Oman was seen as a dramatic sign of warming ties between the two nations, as well as between Israel and the broader Sunni Arab world. Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, met with the sultan during that visit, the first by an Israeli leader since 1996.

But this week, at least two major Omani newspapers ignored the meeting in Warsaw between Netanyahu and the Omani foreign minister.

Protests in Yemen

Separately, demonstrators took to the streets in several areas of Yemen to protest “normalization” with Israel and to support the Palestinian cause, according to local media reports.

The protests came after last week, at the opening session of the Middle East conference in the Polish capital, Netanyahu was placed next to Yemeni diplomat Khaled Alyemany.

After facing criticism for sitting next to Netanyahu, Alyemani said the seating arrangement was an error by the event’s organizers.

From left, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Khaled Alyemany and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attend a session at the conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland, February 14, 2019. (AP Photo/ Czarek Sokolowski)

The Warsaw summit appeared to mark the first time an Israeli leader and senior Arab officials attended an international gathering centered on the Middle East since the 1991 Madrid peace conference, which set the stage for the landmark Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians.

Netanyahu on Thursday called on Arab states to continue normalizing relations with Israel, hailing the opening event of the so-called “Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East” in Warsaw as a “historic turning point,” because he was in the same room as the foreign ministers of 10 Arab countries.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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