Mattis in Oman to meet with Sultan Qaboos
March 12 2018 01:07 AM
US Secretary for Defence Jim Mattis prepares to shake hands with an Omani military official as he is greeted by US Ambassador to Oman March Sievers (second left) upon his arrival in the capital Muscat, yesterday.


US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in Oman yesterday ahead of a meeting with Sultan Qaboos to discuss ongoing security concerns, including the situation in neighbouring Yemen.
Mattis’ visit, his first as Pentagon chief, comes amid regional strains over the Yemen conflict and a Gulf crisis caused by a Saudi-led blockade against Qatar.
“The unity of the (Gulf Co-operation Council) has been strained, to put it mildly, so I am also wanting to hear what the sultan says can be done about that, as well as the situation on his border in Yemen with the various factions that are fighting there and certainly the civil war,” Mattis told reporters accompanying him on the trip.
“The Gulf’s cohesion is critical we believe to maintaining stability in the region.”
Sultan Qaboos, the longest-serving ruler in the Arab world, has kept a low profile on regional disputes, and has carved out a niche for Oman as a diplomatic back-channel. Under Sultan Qaboos, Oman has maintained good ties with countries outside the six-country Gulf Co-operation Council bloc to which it belongs, including neighbouring Yemen.
In March 2015, the sultanate was the only GCC country not to join the Saudi-led coalition air war on rebels in Yemen. Muscat hosted talks with Yemeni rebels towards resolving the war, as well as discussions between Iran and Western powers that led to a landmark July 2015 deal to curb the nation’s nuclear programme.
Mattis is also slated to meet with Oman’s defence minister today and other senior Omani officials.

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