Israel minister visits Oman to present railway link to Gulf
The Israeli transport minister has travelled to Oman to present plans for a railway that will connect the Jewish state to the Gulf, pro-government daily Yisrael Hayom reported on Monday.
Minister Katz is set to attend a transportation conference in the Omani capital, almost two weeks after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited the Gulf state in a surprise visit that was widely condemned by Palestinians.
"This is a historic visit to strengthen relations and I intend to present a mutual initiative 'Tracks for Regional Peace' to connect the Gulf states to Israel," Katz was quoted as saying.
He added that the rail link will "bypass Iran" and pave the way for "normalising relations" between Tel Aviv and the Gulf states.
Katz last year spoke to Saudi-owned news website Elaph about the freight railway network, saying he wanted to revive the historic Hejaz railway.
"As you can see this regional project will link trains to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates," he said.
The trip is the first time an Israeli minister has been formally invited to visit Oman and comes amid warming in relations between Israel and several Arab states.
Netanyahu met with Oman's Sultan Qaboos two weeks ago, an encounter that was kept secret until after he returned to Israel, where it was presented as a major coup for efforts to bolster ties with the Arab world.
Palestinian officials have strongly condemned Oman for hosting Netanyahu, saying it was a betrayal of the Palestinian people who still live under brutal Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank.
The visit was also criticised by pro-Palestine activists and media outlets.
Last week, officials in the United Arab Emirates also took the Israeli sports minister on a guided tour of the grand mosque of Abu Dhabi as she made the first official visit to the Gulf state.
Netanyahu has frequently boasted of warming, behind-the-scenes ties with Arab states, drawn to Israel in part out of mutual animosity toward Iran.
Oman and the UAE, like most Arab countries, does not have official diplomatic ties with Israel.
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