Oman's foreign minister meets Syria's Bashar al-Assad in Damascus

Oman's foreign minister meets Syria's Bashar al-Assad in Damascus
Yousef bin Alawi, Oman's minister of foreign affairs, has paid a surprise visit to Damascus to meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regarding peace talks.
3 min read
26 October, 2015
Oman has pursued a policy distinct to its Gulf neighbours under Alawi [Getty]
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Oman's Foreign Minister Yousef bin Alawi have met today in Damascus, according to Syrian state news.

The report said that Assad and Alawi discussed the "war against terrorism in Syria".

Damascus refers to all its armed opponents in Syria as "terrorists".

"Minister bin Alawi affirmed Oman['s] commitment to Syria's unity and sovereignty, saying that his country continues to exert every possible effort to help find a solution that would end the crisis in Syria," the report read.

This would indicate that the Gulf country might be behind recent efforts to strike a peace deal between the regime and rebels.

Russia, the US and other countries have taken part in talks to find an end to the Syrian crisis.

There are obvious hurdles to securing peace talks, due to the involvement of Moscow in air raids against the rebels in Syria.

Oman has pursued a distinct foreign policy that differs from its Gulf neighbours, and although it has condemned the violence of the regime it has stayed on friendly terms with Damascus.

Muscat is also hosting the Syrian football team during its Asian Cup qualifiying matches, hinting at close relations between the two regimes.

The story also mentioned that Alawi "asserted that eliminating terrorism will contribute to the success of any political track in Syria".

Russia yesterday revealed that Assad might be open to early elections so long as it "first defeated terrorism in Syria".

Oman, under the leadership of Sultan Qaboos bin Said, has been a conduit for talks between the West and Iran this year.

Muscat was praised for helping secure a deal on Tehran's nuclear programme.

It has also taken part in negotiations with Iran on the release of US hostages held by Iran.

Muscat also facilitated the release of six hostages - including two Americans - by Houthi rebels in Yemen, a group Saudi Arabia says is backed by Iran.

Unlike its Gulf neighbours, Oman did not take part in military action against the Zaydi-Shia rebel group in Yemen. 

Muscat also differs from other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council due to its close relations with Iran, and Tehran is investing heavily in Oman's recent infrastructure projects, such as a new port complex in Duqm, central Oman.

Qaboos is said to pursue a "friends with all" foreign policy with the world.

"We have no aggressive designs against anyone. We reject the friendship of no one," Qaboos once commented.

Khaled Khoja, head of the Syrian National Coalition - the largest political opposition bloc - met Alawi on 19 October in Muscat.

Syria's foreign minister Walid Muallem also visited Oman in August.