Oman's Sultan Haitham arrives in Saudi in first foreign visit
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Oman’s Sultan Haitham arrives in Saudi in first foreign visit

Oman’s Sultan Haitham arrives in Saudi in first foreign visit

The two countries are signing agreements in a slew of fields including commerce, culture, investment promotion and post and transport

The sultan of Oman landed in Saudi Arabia on Sunday in the first visit by an Omani leader in over a decade.

Skyscrapers in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, were lit up in red and green, the colours of the Omani flag, to celebrate Sultan Haitham bin Tariq’s arrival. The visit to the city of Neom, where he was greeted by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, coincides with the opening of the first-ever land crossing connecting the countries as Oman tries to diversify trade routes.

The Saudi cabinet also authorised officials to prepare and sign draft agreements with Oman in a slew of fields including commerce, culture, investment promotion and post and transport.

“There’s been a lot of work behind the scenes to try to build the foundation of something much more significant between the Saudis and Omanis,” said Ayham Kamel, head of the Middle East and North Africa at the political risk consultancy Eurasia Group. “Sultan Haitham is viewed in Riyadh as leaning toward Saudi in terms of Gulf affairs.”

A closer relationship could be an economic boon for Oman, which is struggling to diversify its economy away from oil.

Relations between Oman and Saudi Arabia had long been cool despite their shared border. Saudi officials were wary of Oman’s cordial ties with Iran, while Omani officials cultivated a careful neutrality in a volatile region and were wary of undue influence from their larger neighbour.

But the death last year of Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who ruled for five decades, opened an opportunity for change. The visit to Saudi Arabia was Sultan Haitham’s first trip abroad since he came to power.

“The Omani-Saudi relations are set to scale new heights after Sunday, ushering in a new era of wider prosperity and expanded cooperation,” the Times of Oman said on Saturday.

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