US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets new Sultan of Oman during Middle East tour

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Oman's Sultan Haitham bin Tariq at Al-Alam palace in Muscat, Oman on February 21, 2020. (Reuters)
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Oman's Sultan Haitham bin Tariq at Al-Alam palace in Muscat, Oman on February 21, 2020. (Reuters)
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Oman's Sultan Haitham bin Tariq at Al-Alam palace in Muscat, Oman on February 21, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 21 February 2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets new Sultan of Oman during Middle East tour

  • Pompeo is the first high-ranking US official to meet new Sultan
  • Sultan Haitham discussed the “close ties” between Oman and the US

MUSCAT: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Oman’s new leader Sultan Haitham bin Tariq in Muscat on Friday, Omani state media said, during the top American diplomat’s final stop in a tour of African and Gulf states.

Pompeo is the first high-ranking US official to meet the leader since he succeeded previous sultan Qaboos, who died on January 10 at the age of 79.

 

 

Sultan Haitham discussed the “close ties” between Oman and the US with Pompeo, the official Oman News Agency said.

Experts say Oman’s new ruler, aged 65, is likely to continue the foreign policies of his cousin’s five-decade reign.

An ally to Western countries including the US, Qaboos cultivated Oman’s status as a neutral actor, maintaining warm ties with Washington’s arch-rival Iran.

Pompeo arrived in Oman from Riyadh, where he reassured Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that “the United States stands with Saudi Arabia in the face of... the continuing threat posed by the Iranian regime.”

Last year the US boosted its military presence in Saudi Arabia following a series of attacks in the Gulf that Washington and Riyadh have blamed on Iran.

Oman has often acted as a mediator between Iran and its regional rivals. It played a key role in facilitating talks involving the US that led to the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.

But tensions in the Gulf spiked after US President Donald Trump’s administration unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and began reimposing sanctions on Tehran.

Iran retaliated by scaling back some of its nuclear commitments.

While in Saudi, Pompeo and the crown prince also discussed a resurgence in violence between Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the Arab coalition in the country.

They “agreed on their support for UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths’ efforts to advance the political process there,” the State Department said.

Before the Gulf, Pompeo visited Senegal, Angola and Ethiopia on his first African tour.


Yemen’s terrifying, severely damaged road to Taiz on brink of collapse

Vehicles are pictured on a damaged road, the only travel route between Yemen’s cities of Taiz and Aden. Yemen has been left in ruins by six years of war, where over 24 million people are in need of aid and protection. (AFP)
Updated 29 min ago

Yemen’s terrifying, severely damaged road to Taiz on brink of collapse

  • Convoys of vehicles big and small move at a snail’s pace as they squeeze past each other on the narrow road that has been severely damaged over the years by heavy rainfall

TAIZ: Lorries filled to the brim with goods labor up and down the dangerously winding and precipitous road of Hayjat Al-Abed, the mountainous lifeline to Yemen’s third largest city.
Unlike all other routes linking southwest Taiz to the rest of the war-torn country, the road — with its dizzying drop-offs into the valley below — is the only one that has not fallen into the hands of the Houthi rebels.
Some 500,000 inhabitants of the city, which is besieged by the Iran-backed Houthis, depend on the 7-km stretch of crater-filled road for survival, as the long conflict between the insurgents and the government shows no signs of abating.
Convoys of vehicles big and small move at a snail’s pace as they squeeze past each other on the narrow road that has been severely damaged over the years by heavy rainfall.
“As you can see, it is full of potholes, and we face dangerous slopes,” Marwan Al-Makhtary, a young truck driver, told AFP. “Sometimes trucks can no longer move forward, so they stop and roll back.”
Makhtary said nothing was being done to fix the road, and fears are mounting that the inexorable deterioration will ultimately bring the supply of goods to a halt.
Dozens of Taiz residents on Tuesday urged the government to take action, forming a human chain along the road — some of them carrying signs saying: “Save Taiz’s Lifeline.”

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500,000 inhabitants of Taiz, which is besieged by the Iran-backed Houthis, depend on the 7-km stretch of crater-filled road for survival.

“We demand the legitimate government and local administration accelerate efforts to maintain and fix the road,” said one of the protesters, Abdeljaber Numan.
“This is the only road that connects Taiz with the outside world, and the blocking of this artery would threaten the city.”
Sultan Al-Dahbaly, who is responsible for road maintenance in the local administration, said the closure of the road would represent a “humanitarian disaster” in a country already in crisis and where the majority of the population is dependent on aid.
“It is considered a lifeline of the city of Taiz, and it must be serviced as soon as possible because about 5 million people (in the province) would be affected,” he told AFP.

Humanitarian aid
Meanwhile, Yemen’s president on Thursday urged his government’s rival, the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, to stop impeding the flow of urgently needed humanitarian aid following a warning from the UN humanitarian chief last week that “the specter of famine” has returned to the conflict-torn country.
President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s plea came in a prerecorded speech to the UN General Assembly’s ministerial meeting being held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It aired more than a week after Human Rights Watch warned that all sides in Yemen’s conflict were interfering with the arrival of food, health care supplies, water and sanitation support.