US envoy cheers minister’s visit to Oman as sign of warming ties
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US envoy cheers minister’s visit to Oman as sign of warming ties

Israel Katz, in Oman to present his ‘Tracks for Regional Peace’ initiative, says US public backing marks a ‘dramatic development that may influence many countries in the region’

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, center, in Oman, November 5, 2018. (courtesy)
Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, center, in Oman, November 5, 2018. (courtesy)

The US administration’s special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process on Monday hailed the apparently warming ties between the Jewish state and the Arab world, calling for increased “dialogue.”

On Monday, Israeli Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz arrived in Oman for an international conference, a little over a week after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also visited Muscat, and days after two other Israeli ministers made unprecedented visits to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Greenblatt praised Katz’s upcoming presentation of his “Tracks for Regional Peace” initiative, which seeks to establish a trade route connecting Europe with Israel and the Persian Gulf via railway, at Muscat’s World Congress of the International Road Transport Union.

“Let’s keep the dialogue going. These efforts support our efforts,” he wrote.

Katz’s office feted Greenblatt’s tweet as the “first time the US publicly and officially endorsed” his project, which is backed by Netanyahu.

“This is a dramatic development that may influence many countries in the region,” his office said in a statement, adding that it follows two years during which Katz held intensive contacts with US and Arab officials regarding the plan.

“The invitation of the Government of Oman and the visit there are part of a comprehensive move to promote the initiative and strengthen ties with the pragmatic states in the region,” the statement read.

Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, in Oman, November 5, 2018 (courtesy)

Katz’s four-day visit to Oman comes on the heels of a rare visit there last week by Netanyahu, who met with Sultan Qaboos bin Said, being the first Israeli leader to publicly travel to the Gulf country since 1996.

Two other ministers — Miri Regev and Ayoub Kara — recently traveled to the Gulf in their respective official capacities.

Earlier on Monday, Greenblatt, who spent the last few days in Israel and met with Israeli officials, including Netanyahu, as well as “Palestinian friends,” had commented on a tweet by Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, in which the latter seemed to praise Netanyahu for speaking out on behalf of Saudi Arabia.

“Good to see #Bahrain agrees with #Israel on the importance of stability in the region. Israel and its neighbors continue to find common ground,” Greenblatt tweeted, in English and Arabic.

Khalifa in his tweet said that, Netanyahu “has a clear position on the importance of stability in the region and the role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in cementing that stability.”

He was referring to an article about Netanyahu saying on Friday that the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul “was horrendous” but that the stability of Saudi Arabia and the region was more important.

Last week, Greenblatt also tweeted in support of apparent warming Gulf ties with Israel.

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