Pompeo ends Mideast trip with visit to Oman's new sultan

Pompeo ends Mideast trip with visit to Oman’s new sultan

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday visited Oman’s new sultan, the last stop on a Mideast trip that sought to build on an American-brokered deal to have Israel and the United Arab Emirates normalize relations.

Pompeo’s plane landed in Muscat and he traveled to meet Sultan Haitham bin Tariq. There, Pompeo tweeted that the two leaders spoke “on the importance of building regional peace, stability and prosperity through a united Gulf Cooperation Council.”

The six-nation GCC has been torn apart by the yearslong boycott of council member Qatar by fellow members Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as part of a political dispute. The GCC’s other two members, Kuwait and Oman, have pushed for the countries to reconcile, as has the U.S. amid the Trump administration’s maximum pressure policy targeting Iran.

The state-run Oman News Agency described Pompeo’s trip as “a short visit to the sultanate,” without offering specifics on what was discussed. Accompanying Sultan Haitham at the meeting was Oman’s new foreign minister, Badr bin Hamad al-Busaidi.

Sultan Haitham took power in January, following the death of longtime ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who ruled Oman for 50 years. In the time since, he’s focused entirely on overhauling the sultanate’s government, though he said he planned to continue Oman’s non-interference policy in the region. Oman for years has served as a key interlocutor between Iran and the West.

Pompeo already traveled to Israel, Sudan, Bahrain and the UAE on this trip through the Mideast, one that included him offering a recorded message in Jerusalem supporting President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign for the Republican National Convention. That speech cast aside his own advice to American diplomats to be apolitical and bulldozed a long tradition of non-partisanship by previous secretaries of state.

His trip came after a U.S.-brokered deal announced Aug. 13 saw the United Arab Emirates and Israel open diplomatic relations. The diplomatic recognition of Israel may help the Emirates purchase advanced American weapons, such as the F-35 fighter jet.

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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.

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