Regional and world leaders honour Sultan Qaboos and his diplomatic legacy

Sultan Qaboos’s policies of diplomacy-first and neutrality in conflicts gave Oman a prime role in mediations.
Sunday 19/01/2020
A 2013 file picture shows Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said saluting during the military parade in the capital Muscat. (AFP)
Last farewell. A 2013 file picture shows Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said saluting during the military parade in the capital Muscat. (AFP)

LONDON - Royalty, heads of states and high-ranking government officials flocked to Muscat to pay respects to Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said and show support for Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, Oman’s first new leader in almost 50 years.

The death of Sultan Qaboos on January 10 at the age of 79 was considered a regional watershed. Besides his distinction of being the longest-serving Arab leader, the late sultan’s policies of diplomacy first and neutrality in conflicts gave Oman a prime role in mediations.

Shortly after the Omani Royal Court’s announcement of Sultan Qaboos’s death, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz expressed “sincere condolences and sympathy to the royal family and people of the Sultanate of Oman as well as to the Arab and Islamic nations over the death of Sultan Qaboos.”

President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan “commended the late sultan for being dedicated to the service of his people and nation and his work on bolstering cohesion of the Arab nation, ” a statement from WAM, the UAE state news agency, said.

“We express our full confidence that the people of Oman and their leadership will continue his blessed march serving the causes of the nation and develop the Arab joint action,” Sheikh Khalifa said in the statement. He ordered three days of mourning across the United Arab Emirates.

Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah expressed “great grief over the death of Sultan Qaboos, sharing his deep condolences with the Omani leadership and people.” Bahraini King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa also announced a 3-day mourning period, with the Bahraini flag lowered to half-staff.

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani issued a statement in which he “mourned with full sadness and sorrow” the late sultan and leaders from both sides of the Yemen conflict offered their condolences, highlighting Oman’s neutrality.

Events in Oman dominated reporting of the region’s main news channels which, despite their differing editorial policies, were unified in tributes to Sultan Qaboos.

In Dubai, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya broadcast reports on Sultan Qaboos’s achievements, with an emphasis on his efforts to empower women and on how the sultanate’s economy experienced “a quantum leap under Qaboos, as he increased and developed the oil production.”

Qatari-owned Al Jazeera showed a video report that said: “Oman under the rule of [Sultan] Qaboos had been a destination for mediation to resolve crises in the region… as evidenced by its mediation between Iran and the United States that resulted in the signing of the nuclear deal in 2015.”

Details of what it called a “smooth transition” after Sultan Qaboos’s death were disclosed by Oman’s Supreme Defence Council.

They said the council invited the Royal Family Council to meet and select the sultan’s successor because he did not have children and had not publicly named a successor.

Omani media reports said the royal family members were meant to decide who the next sultan would be, taking into consideration, in case of a deadlock, wishes expressed by Sultan Qaboos in a letter he wrote before his death.

The Royal Family Council decided, however, to resort to the letter and concur with his choice of successor in “recognition and gratitude” for the late sultan.

The list of officials and government delegations that visited Muscat to pay their condolences and pay respects to the new sultan included Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, British Prince Charles, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Tunisian President Kais Saied and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

US President Donald Trump sent a delegation to Muscat headed by US Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette to deliver a handwritten message from Trump to Sultan Haitham.