Joint Saudi-Omani statement calls for addressing Iranian threats
NEOM, Saudi Arabia – A joint Saudi-Omani statement called on Monday for the addressing of the Iranian nuclear and missile issue, in an indication of the Sultanate’s improving ties with Saudi Arabia and Muscat’s ability to balance its relations with both Riyadh and Tehran.
The statement was issued during the Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said visit to Saudi Arabia on his first official overseas trip since assuming power last year, with talks focusing on the Yemen war and economic and investment cooperation as Muscat looks to shore up its finances.
Sultan Haitham, whose country has joined United Nations-led efforts to secure a peace agreement in Yemen, arrived Sunday in the Red Sea city of NEOM for a two-day visit.
He was greeted by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, in what Saudi-owned media said was the monarch’s first face-to-face meeting since the coronavirus pandemic began, along with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
In their joint statement, the two sides said they discussed ways to further enhance Oman-Saudi relations. They also discussed regional affairs including the Saudi cease-fire proposal in Yemen and Iran’s nuclear energy and missile programmes.
Both sides “also stressed the importance of cooperation and dealing in a serious and effective manner with the Iranian nuclear and missile issue with all its components in a way that contributes to realising regional and international security and stability.”
The joint statement served to show that Oman is taking into account Saudi concerns when it comes to the kingdom’s security and that of the region as a whole. In recent years, these concerns have been exacerbated by Tehran’s development of military capabilities and an Iranian insistence on pursuing hostile policies against neighbours in the region.
Iran is accused of meddling in the affairs of Arab countries through a number of armed proxies that have been active across the region, particularly in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
The Saudi concerns do not stop there. On several occasions, the kingdom has condemned Iran’s failure to prove the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme.
The choice of the kingdom as Sultan Haitham’s first foreign destination since taking power last year signals Oman’s respect for the influence of Saudi Arabia, the spiritual anchor of the Sunni Muslim world and the region’s largest economy with vast oil reserves.
It also reflects the states’ mutual self-interest, as Saudi Arabia seeks to cool tensions with Iran and chart a path out of its costly campaign in Yemen, which has spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and settled into a bloody stalemate.
On Yemen, Monday’s joint statement said the two sides committed to continue “their efforts to find a comprehensive political solution to the Yemeni crisis based on the Gulf initiative, the outcomes of the Yemeni National Dialogue Conference and UN Security Council Resolution Number 2216, as well as the latest Saudi peace initiative to end the human suffering of the Yemeni people.”
In recent weeks, Oman, which shares borders with Yemen, has accelerated its long-standing diplomatic efforts to end the catastrophic conflict, which pits a Saudi-led military coalition against Iran-backed Houthi militias.
The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the internationally-recognised government from the capital, Sana’a. The war has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis and pushed the country to the brink of famine.
Political sources had earlier revealed to The Arab Weekly the existence of Omani diplomatic efforts to bridge the differences between Riyadh and Tehran, by transmitting indirect messages aimed at easing tensions in the region against the background of the escalating violence in Yemen and Tehran’s direct role in supporting the Houthi militias.
During Sultan Haitham’s visit, Saudi Arabia and Oman also signed a document to establish a joint coordination council to oversee several agreements.
The two sides also agreed to direct the relevant authorities to accelerate the opening of the road linking the two countries. This will contribute to the smooth movement of citizens and the integration of supply chains in order to achieve the desired economic integration between them.
They also worked on a number of agreements and MoUs for cooperation in various economic, trade, investment, security, cultural, diplomatic and educational fields and in everything that will promote common benefits and interests.
The joint statement, “affirmed their determination to raise the pace of economic cooperation between the two countries by stimulating the public and private sectors to reach qualitative trade and investment exchanges that achieve the aspirations of the two peoples and contribute to achieving the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and Oman Vision 2040, and through launching a set of joint initiatives that include major areas of cooperation, including investments in the region of Duqm and cooperation in the field of energy, in addition to partnership in the field of food security and cooperation in various cultural, sports and tourism activities.”
The two sides also affirmed “the strengthening of cooperation in the fields of environment, food security and the Green Middle East initiative announced by Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Prince Muhammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, because of its benefits at the local, regional and global levels.”
The joint statement noted that Sultan Haitham invited Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz to visit Oman.