Oman foreign minister makes rare visit by Arab official to Temple Mount
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Oman foreign minister makes rare visit by Arab official to Temple Mount

Israeli officials unaware of Jerusalem trip in which Yusuf bin Alawi, on 3-day visit to the Palestinian Authority, prayed in Dome of the Rock mosque

Omani Minister for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi center, visiting the Al-Aqsa mosque compound on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, February 15, 2018. (Ahmad GHARABLI/AFP)
Omani Minister for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi center, visiting the Al-Aqsa mosque compound on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, February 15, 2018. (Ahmad GHARABLI/AFP)

Oman’s foreign minister made a rare visit by an Arab official to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount on Thursday after holding talks with Palestinian leaders in the West Bank.

Yusuf bin Alawi toured the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem and prayed at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the site.

Alawi arrived in the West Bank on Tuesday for a three-day visit to the Palestinian Authority — an unusually long sojourn there by an Arab foreign minister. It was also the first visit by an Omani foreign minister to the West Bank, the Gulf news site AlKhaleej Online reported.

Such a visit would usually require coordination with Israeli officials but an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said he was unaware of the visit and could not immediately comment.

On Wednesday, Alawi visited the central West Bank city of Jericho, where he said the need for establishing a Palestine state was similar to the urgency felt to establish the State of Israel after the two world wars of the 20th century.

“There was a global desire to establish Israel after the first and second world wars… Now the establishment of a Palestinian state has become a strategic necessity for all the world,” he said.

Omani Minister for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi, center performing prayers inside the cave beneath the Dome of the Rock, during his visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, February 18, 2015. (Ahmad GHARABLI/AFP)

He was slated to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday.

Abbas and Alawi are expected to discuss ways to “confront” Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, according to the report.

In a December address from the White House, Trump said his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government was merely based on reality, stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. It was vehemently opposed by the Palestinians and the wider Arab world. The Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state, have said Trump’s Jerusalem decision disqualifies Washington from its historic role as the sole mediator in the peace process.

In January 1996, Israel and Oman signed an agreement on the reciprocal opening of trade representative offices. The agreement was suspended during the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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