DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – The Sultan of Oman arrived in Saudi Arabia on Sunday to meet with the Saudi King, beginning the first visit by an Omani ruler in years against the backdrop of renewed diplomatic efforts to end the war in Yemen and the Sultanate. worsening economic difficulties.
Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said has landed in Neom, a futuristic desert town planned along the kingdom’s Red Sea coast, with blaring trumpets and fighter jets hovering above his head. Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman greeted him on the tarmac and guided him over a long lavender carpet for palace meetings as regional tensions simmer and his government faces a increasing stress at home.
The choice to make Saudi Arabia the first foreign destination of Sultan Haitham since taking power last year is a testament to the states’ mutual interest and Oman’s respect for Saudi Arabia’s influence, l spiritual anchor of the Sunni Muslim world and the region’s largest economy with its vast reserves of oil.
Sultan Haitham ascended the throne after the death of Sultan Qaboos in power for a long time ben Said, whose public appearances become scarce as he ages. Sultan Qaboos traveled abroad frequently for medical treatment towards the end of his tenure, but avoided the pomp and pageantry of visits to Arab sheikhs in the Gulf.
Oman, sandwiched between Saudi Arabia and its arch rival Iran, has long played the role of a neutral mediator, especially in efforts to resolve the seven-year-old conflict in Yemen. The costly war, pitting a Saudi-led military coalition against Iran-backed Houthi rebels, spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and turned into a bloody standoff, forcing the kingdom increasingly to calm tensions with Iran and look for a way out of the quagmire.
Tightening ties with Saudi Arabia could become critical as Sultan Haitham, the 65-year-old former culture minister, faces tens of billions of dollars in unpaid debt, an ‘junk’ credit rating and on the rise in youth unemployment. The coronavirus pandemic and falling oil prices have exacerbated the financial woes of the Gulf Arab nation, causing a explosion of scattered protests in May it was a shock in the once quiet sultanate. Struggling to balance its books, the Omani government is now looking to wealthier Gulf neighbors for financial support, according to a bond prospectus last year.
The country has also requested technical assistance from the International Monetary Fund, the institution said last week, to help the government manage its debt, which last year swelled to nearly 83 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.