Oman’s foreign minister meets Bashar Assad in rare Syria visit

Oman’s state minister for foreign affairs Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus. (File/AFP)
Updated 08 July 2019
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Oman’s foreign minister meets Bashar Assad in rare Syria visit

  • The two discussed bilateral relations and regional security
  • Oman is one of the few Arab states to have maintained ties with Damascus over the past eight years

MUSCAT: Oman’s top diplomat met Sunday with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus, Muscat said, in the Gulf official’s second visit to the war-wracked country since conflict broke out in 2011.
Assad met with Oman’s state minister for foreign affairs Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah to discuss bilateral relations and regional security, the sultanate’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
It added that Abdullah also met with his Syrian counterpart, Walid Muallem.
Oman is one of the few Arab states to have maintained ties with Damascus over the past eight years.
Syria was suspended from the Arab League in 2011 for its deadly crackdown on an uprising against Assad’s rule, and fellow Arab countries, including Gulf powerhouse Saudi Arabia, have supported the opposition.
Oman’s Sultan Qaboos adheres to a strict policy of non-interference in regional affairs, maintaining relations with rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran — a key backer of Assad.
Abdullah visited Damascus in 2015, Syria’s official SANA news agency reported at the time, to discuss ways to “resolve the crisis in Syria.”
During a visit to Oman last year, Syria’s Muallem praised Muscat for taking “supportive positions toward Syria at various Arab and international forums,” the state-run Oman News Agency reported.
Syria’s once rocky ties with the region are on the rebound.
The United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus late last year after years of closure, and Syria’s relations with Bahrain and Jordan have also improved.
But Saudi Arabia remains hostile to Assad, who has made a military comeback with military support from Russia since 2015, clawing back almost two-thirds of the country.
Syria’s multi-fronted war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it began with the repression of anti-government protests in 2011.


Netanyahu urges rival Gantz to form unity government

Updated 41 min 43 sec ago

Netanyahu urges rival Gantz to form unity government

  • Gantz is yet to respond to the approach by Netanyahu
  • The change of strategy reflected Netanyahu’s weakened position

JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Thursday on his main rival, former general Benny Gantz, to join him in a broad, governing coalition after Israel’s election ended with no clear winner.
A spokeswoman for Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White party, had no immediate response to the surprise offer from Netanyahu, head of the right-wing Likud party.
The change of strategy reflected Netanyahu’s weakened position after he failed again in Tuesday’s election, which followed an inconclusive ballot in April, to secure a parliamentary majority.
“During the election campaign, I called for the establishment of a right-wing government but to my regret, the election results show that this is impossible,” Netanyahu said.
“Benny, we must set up a broad unity government, as soon as today. The nation expects us, both of us, to demonstrate responsibility and that we pursue cooperation.”
On Wednesday, Gantz said he hoped for a “good, desirable unity government.” But he has also ruled out forming one with a Netanyahu-led Likud, citing looming corruption charges against the prime minister. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.