Mattis in Oman to meet with Sultan Qaboos

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, right, shakes hands with Omani Brig. Saleh bin Ahmed Al-Hinai, Head of the Oman Military Protocols and Public Relations, at Seeb Air Base, northwest of Muscat, Oman. (Photo: Oman News Agency via AP)
Updated 11 March 2018
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Mattis in Oman to meet with Sultan Qaboos

MUSCAT: US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in Oman on Sunday ahead of a meeting with Sultan Qaboos to discuss ongoing security concerns, including the situation in neighboring Yemen.
Mattis’s visit, his first as Pentagon chief, comes amid regional strains over the Yemen conflict and a diplomatic rift between Qatar and a bloc of countries led by Saudi Arabia.
“The unity of the (Gulf Cooperation Council) has been strained, to put it mildly, so I am also wanting to hear what the sultan says can be done about that, as well as the situation on his border in Yemen with the various factions that are fighting there and certainly the civil war,” Mattis told reporters accompanying him on the trip.
“The Gulf’s cohesion is critical we believe to maintaining stability in the region.”
Under Qaboos, Oman has maintained good ties with countries outside the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) bloc to which it belongs, including neighboring Yemen.
In March 2015, the sultanate was the only GCC country not to join the Saudi-led coalition air war on Iran-backed rebels in Yemen, but also maintained solid relations with Riyadh.
Muscat hosted talks with Yemeni rebels toward resolving the war, as well as discussions between Iran and Western powers that led to a landmark July 2015 deal to curb the Islamic republic’s nuclear program.
Mattis is also slated to meet with Oman’s defense minister Monday and other senior Omani officials.


Russia says Syrian government forces has halted fire in Idlib

Updated 1 min 47 sec ago
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Russia says Syrian government forces has halted fire in Idlib

  • The last round of violence also displaced some 180,000 in opposition-held areas
DAMASCUS: Syrian government forces have unilaterally ceased fire in the northern Idlib province, the last major opposition stronghold, Russia said on Sunday, while opposition activists reported continued shelling and airstrikes.
Fighting erupted in Idlib late last month, effectively shattering a cease-fire negotiated by Russia and Turkey that had been in place since September. Russia has firmly backed Syria’s Bashar Assad regime in the eight-year civil war, while Turkey has supported the opposition.
In a brief statement on Sunday, the Russian Defense Ministry’s Center for Reconciliation of the Warring Sides in Syria said regime forces had ceased fire as of midnight. It described the move as unilateral, but did not give details.
The pro-government Syrian Central Military Media said regime forces responded to shelling by militants on Sunday on the edge of Idlib. It gave no further details.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitoring group, reported an airstrike on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, saying it inflicted casualties.
The opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense also reported shelling near the town of Jisr Al-Shughour without reporting any casualties.
Syrian government forces intensified their attacks as of April 30 on Idlib. The area is home to some 3 million people, many of whom are internally displaced. The last round of violence also displaced some 180,000 in opposition-held areas.