Oman has described Israel as a “state” in the Middle East, a day after the Israeli prime minister returned home from a visit to Muscat.
At a security summit in Bahrain on Saturday, Oman’s foreign minister said the sultanate was offering ideas to help Israel and the Palestinians in efforts to secure regional peace but is not acting as a mediator.
“Israel is a state present in the region, and we all understand this,” Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah said.
“The world is also aware of this fact. Maybe it is time for Israel to be treated the same [as other states] and also bare the same obligations.”
Bin Alawi made the comments a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Sultan Qaboos.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also met with Qaboos during a three-day visit to the Gulf state earlier in the week.
“We are not saying that the road is now easy and paved with flowers, but our priority is to put an end to the conflict and move to a new world,” bin Alawi told the summit in Bahrain.
Oman and Israel do not have diplomatic relations.
The last Israeli leader to visit Oman was Shimon Peres in 1996.
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa voiced support for Oman over the sultanate’s role in trying to secure Israeli-Palestinian peace, while Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the kingdom believes the key to normalising relations with Israel is the peace process.
In an apparent sign of warming ties between the two countries, Netanyahu’s unannounced trip to Oman came as a surprise to many.
Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, were joined by Mossad intelligence chief Yossi Cohen and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat.
The Israeli delegation flew to Oman on Thursday and returned to Israel on Friday.
Marking what was the first visit by an Israeli leader to the sultanate in more than two decades, Netanyahu’s office said in a statement on Friday that the visit came at the invitation of Sultan Qaboos and followed “lengthy contacts between the two countries”.
His office added that it formed part of a policy of “deepening relations with the states of the region”.
A joint statement said the two sides “discussed ways to advance the Middle East peace process” and “a number of issues of mutual interest to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East.”