Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin this week visited Oman, becoming the first Israeli head of state to visit an Arab Gulf nation.
Upon his return, Rabin said the two countries hope to establish formal diplomatic ties in the near future.
Rabin met with Omani leader Sultan Qaboos Bin Said on Monday to discuss the Middle East peace process and current efforts to reach a comprehensive peace in the region.
At the request of the Omani hosts, Rabin’s one-day visit was not made public until its conclusion. Speaking to reporters upon return, Rabin praised the courage of the sultan for meeting with him. He said the sultan reiterated his support for the peace process.
Israel and Oman have maintained friendly relations since the 1970s and have cooperated in area of mutual interest. Oman’s Foreign Minister Yusef Ben Alawi reportedly has made secret visits to Israel before.
One reason for the good relations is that Oman, unlike other Arab states, did not cut off ties with Egypt following the 1978 Camp David accords, which provided the basis for the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.
Last May, Oman hosted a round of the multilateral talks on water. The meeting was attended by an Israeli delegation headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin. Beilin paid another visit to the Gulf state in November to discuss the opening of interest sections in each other’s countries.
After returning to Israel, Rabin phoned Jordan’s King Hussein to brief him on the talks in Oman.