Israel's Netanyahu makes surprise, unpublicized visit to Oman

Israel's Netanyahu meets Sultan Qaboos in surprise Oman trip

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a secret one-day trip to Oman on Friday, where he met with the ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who has led his country for almost 50 years.

The visit came at the invitation of Sultan Qaboos and followed "lengthy contacts between the two countries", the Israeili statement said. "It is the first official encounter of this level since the year 1996", Netanyahu announced via Twitter after returning to Tel Aviv.

In the cable, Israeli Foreign Ministry official Yacov Hadas said: "They [the Gulf states] believe Israel can work magic".

The sultanate has meanwhile been planning a gas pipeline to neighboring Iran, which is threatened by the reinstatement of American sanctions on Iran's petroleum sector, slated to go into effect November 5.

In the statement, Netanyahu's office called the visit "a significant step in implementing" his policy of "deepening relations with the states of the region while leveraging Israel's advantages in security, technology and economic matters".

Among the issues discussed were how to advance the Middle East peace process, along with several matters of common interest, according to the prime minister's office.

In an apparent sign of warming ties between the two countries, Netanyahu's unannounced trip to Oman came as a surprise to many.

World Business Report, China opens the world's longest sea bridge
It also includes a 6.7-kilometer (4-mile) submerged tunnel to help it avoid the busy shipping paths over the Pearl River Delta. However, the sprawling structure is now complete and is expected to be opened by Chinese President Xi Jinping on October 23.

Israel Prime Ministers visited Oman in 1994 and 1996 around the time of the Oslo peace process.

Netanyahu arrived in Muscat on Thursday night at the head of a high-powered delegation that included among others Mossad director Yossi Cohen and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, and returned to Jerusalem later on Friday.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas also visited Oman this week, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.

Netanyahu's visit with Sultan Qaboos was notable for being widely publicized, with Israeli and Omani media carrying images and videos of the meeting.

In another sign of warming ties between Israel and Arab states, Israel's judo team is set for the first time to participate at an global competition in the UAE under their national flag.

The sultan reportedly told both Netanyahu and Abbas to restart peace talks, but Palestinians told him there isn't a good chance negotiations can resume with Israel's current right-wing government. Despite vocal opposition by Israel and disapproval of several Sunni countries including Saudi Arabia, the deal offered Iran relief from worldwide sanctions in exchange for its scaling back of parts of its nuclear program. Trump later withdrew the U.S. from the accord earlier this year.

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