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
0

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.


US approves $3.8 billion F-16 sale to Morocco

Updated 24 min 31 sec ago
0

US approves $3.8 billion F-16 sale to Morocco

WASHINGTON: he United States on Monday approved the sale of 25 F-16 fighter aircraft to Morocco for $3.8 billion, the State Department announced.
Besides the new Block 70/72 F-16s, equipped with state of the art electronic systems and weaponry, Washington also approved the modernization of 23 F-16s already in the Moroccan air force fleet, for $983 million.
The State Department said the sale would not affect the balance of forces in the region.
It can still be blocked by the US Congress, which has 30 days to raise any objections.
More than 4,500 of the Lockheed Martin-built F-16s have been delivered since 1978.
It is gradually being replaced by the stealth F-35 fighters but more than 3,000 of F-16s are still in use in 25 countries, thanks to constant upgrades.
The Moroccan military ordered 24 F-16s in 2008. It lost one aircraft in action in 2015 during Saudi-led air operations in Yemen.