Israel's Netanyahu pays surprise visit to Oman

Israel's Netanyahu pays surprise visit to Oman

Israel's Netanyahu pays surprise visit to Oman

According to officials, the two leaders discussed ways to take the peace process forward in the Middle East.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made an unannounced visit to Oman, an Arab state with which Israel has no diplomatic ties, and met with Sultan Qaboos, the premier's office said Friday.

Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, were joined by Mossad intelligence chief Yossi Cohen, who has reportedly been responsible for clandestine talks with Gulf governments, and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat.

The visit comes after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' visit to Oman earlier this week, raising the prospect that the sultanate may mediate between the two sides.

The last meeting between leaders of the two nations was in 1996 when then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres visited Oman and Qatar.

Netanyahu's office said in a statement the prime minister was invited by Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said after lengthy communications between the two nations.

"A special visit in Oman - we're making history!"

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At a security summit in Bahrain, a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Oman, the Omani minister said his country was very optimistic about reaching a solution in the Middle East that would be beneficial to both the Palestinians and Israel. The only Arab states that recognize Israel are Jordan and Egypt. "The Palestinians are taking a strong position against the Trump administration and Netanyahu and yet they have to talk to the Israelis".

The Palestinians cut ties with the USA after the White House recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and then moved the American embassy there in May.

Netanyahu has repeatedly stated in recent years that Israel has developed good relations with several Arab states, despite a lack of official ties. Unlike many Arab states, Oman has also maintained relations with Syria.

A trade office in Oman was closed in 2000 during the second Palestinian Intifada.

In February, Oman's foreign minister made a rare visit by an Arab official to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound and to the West Bank.

In another sign of improving relations, Israeli Sports Minister, Miri Regev flew to Abu Dhabi where Israel's judo team was participating in a major tournament.

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