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Oman, also enjoying warming ties with Israel, backs Israel-UAE normalization

Sultanate, which could reportedly be the next Gulf country to sign historic deal with Jewish state, says it hopes move will help achieve Middle East peace

This image made from video shows Oman's new sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, taking part in a cannon-fire salute outside the Royal Family Council in Muscat, Oman, January 11, 2020. (Oman TV via AP)
This image made from video shows Oman's new sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, taking part in a cannon-fire salute outside the Royal Family Council in Muscat, Oman, January 11, 2020. (Oman TV via AP)

Oman said Friday that it backed the normalization of ties between the neighboring United Arab Emirates and Israel, expressing hope that the move would help achieve lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace.

A foreign ministry spokesman expressed the sultanate’s “support for the UAE’s decision regarding relations with Israel” according to a statement on Oman’s official news agency.

The statement expressed hope that the move would “contribute to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East and in a manner that would serve the aspirations of the peoples of the region.”

Oman has been touted as a nation that could follow Abu Dhabi in establishing relations with Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman in 2018, the first trip by an Israeli leader in over two decades, in what was seen as a sign of warming ties between the Jewish state and the Sunni Arab world.

The prime minister met then with the late Sultan Qaboos bin 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.”

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

Qaboos was succeeded by his cousin Haitham bin Tariq after passing away in January.

Bahrain has also been cited as a nation that may be on the path toward formalizing relations. Senior Israeli officials told Hebrew-language media that they were in advanced talks with Bahrain about normalizing ties with the Gulf state.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced their agreement Thursday afternoon. They “agreed to the full normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE,” they said in a joint statement with the US that was released by President Donald Trump.

Said Trump: “This is a monumental step to forging ties of cooperation in the Middle East and I think you’re going to have other countries come forward. I can tell you we already do and they want to make a deal. They’re going to have peace in the Middle East.”

Ronit Katz and Israel Katz with Foreign Minister of Bahrain Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa on July 22, 2019. (Twitter)

Bahrain was among those welcoming the deal: “This historic step will contribute to strengthening stability and peace in the region,” the government in Manama said in a statement on the national news agency.

Bahrain also said the accord stopped “the annexation of Palestinian lands and [was] advancing the region towards peace.”

The UAE-Israel deal marks the third such agreement the Jewish state has struck with an Arab country after Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994).

Israeli and UAE delegations will meet in the coming weeks to sign bilateral agreements regarding investment, tourism, direct flights, security and the establishment of reciprocal embassies, their statement said.

Netanyahu said on Thursday night that Israel had entered “new era of Israeli relations with the Arab world,” and that other deals with Arab countries would follow.

He said the agreement reflected the “dramatic change” in the way Israel was perceived in the region. In the past, it was regarded “as an enemy and source of instability” but today “many, many states see Israel as a strategic ally for stability, for security, for advancement and also for peace.

“There will be other Arab and Muslim states that will join the circle of peace with us,” he predicted. Israel and moderate states in the region “stand aligned in favor of advancement and against the extremist forces that threaten us and world peace.”

Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner said later Thursday that more Arab countries may soon announce normalized ties with Israel.

“We hope this is an icebreaker where Israel can now normalize relations with other countries,” Kushner said at a briefing with reporters, shortly after Trump announced the pact, adding that he thought there was a “very good chance” of another Israeli-Arab deal within months.

“We have a couple who were upset that they weren’t first,” Kushner said. “But… we will work very hard to create more and more normalizations over the coming time ahead.”

Israel agreed to shelve annexation of parts of the West Bank as part of the deal, but it was unclear if the move had been put on hold permanently or temporarily. Netanyahu said his plan to apply Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria with full American coordination had not changed and was still on the table, but that Trump had requested a temporary halt.

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