Oman denies Mossad chief’s claim it’s establishing diplomatic ties with Israel

Muscat says reports of rapprochement with Jerusalem are ‘baseless,’ calls for establishment of Palestinian state

Oman's Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah attends the 2019 World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa, at the King Hussein Convention Centre at the Dead Sea in Jordan on April 6, 2019. (Khalil MAZRAAWI / AFP)
Oman's Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah attends the 2019 World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa, at the King Hussein Convention Centre at the Dead Sea in Jordan on April 6, 2019. (Khalil MAZRAAWI / AFP)

Oman on Tuesday denied it was establishing ties with Israel, a day after the head of the Mossad intelligence service publicly touted the forging of diplomatic relations between Muscat and Jerusalem.

Oman’s Foreign Ministry, in a tweet, said such claims were “baseless.”

“The Sultanate is keen to make efforts to prepare diplomatic conditions favorable to restoring contacts between all international and regional parties in order to work to achieve peace between the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel’s government, leading to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state,” it said.

The head of the Mossad said Monday that Israel was renewing ties with Oman.

Head of the Mossad Yossi Cohen speaks at a cyber conference at Tel Aviv University on June 24, 2019. (Flash90)

“Just recently, renewal of formal relations with Oman was declared and the establishment of a representative office of the Foreign Ministry in that country,” Yossi Cohen said at the Herzliya Conference, hosted by the Interdisciplinary Center this week.

“That is only the visible tip of a much broader secret effort,” he said, adding that in addition to Israel’s historic treaties with Jordan and Egypt, other Arab countries had discreetly joined “the states of peace, some of them in an unseen manner.”

“We do not yet have with them official peace treaties, but there is already a commonality of interests, broad cooperation and open channels of communication,” he added.

Israel and Oman opened trade representative offices in the 1990s, but in 2000 the Gulf sultanate closed them after the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on Cohen’s remarks.

In October, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held surprise talks with Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Muscat.

The recent moves have raised Palestinian fears of a normalization of ties.

Last week, Oman said it would open an embassy in the Palestinian territories in support of the Palestinian people, in a first for a Gulf state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman in the Gulf state on October 26, 2018 (Courtesy)

The announcement was greeted warily by senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi, who warned 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.

Mutual concerns about Shiite Iran have lately highlighted common interests between some Arab countries and Israel.

In an unprecedented step, a handful of Israeli journalists invited by the White House flew openly to Bahrain last week for a US-sponsored workshop unveiling economic planks of a broader plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The Gulf state has no diplomatic relations with Israel.

On Monday the Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Foreign Minister Israel Katz had visited Abu Dhabi for a UN climate conference, during which he met United Nations chief Antonio Guterres and an unnamed “high ranking UAE official.”

“I shall continue to work together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to advance the normalization policy,” Katz posted on Facebook.

That policy, he wrote, was based on “Israel’s capabilities in the areas of security and intelligence and also in various civilian fields.”

In this photo released on July 1, 2019, Foreign Minister Israel Katz visits the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Courtesy Katz’s office)

The United Arab Emirates do not have formal diplomatic ties with the Jewish state, but Culture Minister Miri Regev paid a visit to Abu Dhabi in October.

The statement did not say when Katz was there but described his visit as the first by a senior Israeli minister since the Bahrain conference.

In his Monday speech, Cohen said that a potentially one-time-only window of opportunity had opened for Israel to achieve a regional peace agreement in light of shared opposition to Iran and Islamist terror groups, as well as improved ties with the US and Russia.

“The Mossad has identified at this time a rare opportunity — perhaps the first in the history of the Middle East — to reach a regional understanding that would lead to an inclusive regional peace agreement,” he said.

According to the Mossad chief, the opportunity comes from a shared interest with countries throughout the region in fighting Iran and Islamic terror groups, such as Islamic State, and from Israel’s close relations with the White House and the Kremlin.

Adam Rasgon and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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