Published:  12:24 AM, 13 January 2020

World leaders travel to Oman to meet new Sultan Haitham

World leaders travel to Oman to meet new Sultan Haitham Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said is sworn in before the royal family council in Muscat, Oman, on Saturday. -Reuters

World leaders travelled on Sunday to Oman to meet the country's new sultan, named just a day after the death of the nation's longtime ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince Charles were among those who arrived in Muscat to meet Oman's new ruler, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said. Other leaders included Kuwait's ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, as well as Qatar's ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Sultan Haitham was Oman's culture minister before being named as the successor to Sultan Qaboos, the Middle East's longest-ruling monarch whose death was announced on Saturday. He died at the age of 79 after years of an undisclosed illness.

Sultan Haitham, 66, has pledged to follow Sultan Qaboos' example of promoting peace and dialogue in the Mideast.He vowed on Saturday to uphold Sultan Qaboos foreign policy approach, which steered the Arab country through choppy Persian Gulf waters by balancing close relations with both the United States and Iran.

"We will follow the same line as the late sultan, and the principles that he asserted for the foreign policy of our country, of peaceful coexistence among nations and people, and good neighborly behaviour of non-interference in the affairs of others," he said in his first public remarks as sultan.

The Al Said family has ruled Oman since the eighteenth century, and once ruled over Zanzibar too, off the coast of Tanzania.Qaboos' choice of successor was a closely guarded secret believed to have been known only to the sultan, who did not have any children.

Oman sits on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula and has served as an interlocutor between Iran and the US, which are facing a level of unprecedented tensions. Oman is a close ally of Washington and viewed as a valuable regional player.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif travelled to Muscat on Sunday as well to meet Sultan Haitham. Qaboos came to power nearly 50 years ago when he deposed his father in a 1970 palace coup.Oman did not join a Saudi- and Emirati-led boycott of neighbouring Qatar, and has maintained relations with rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Qaboos had refused to join the Saudi-led coalition at war in Yemen and kept the country's border with Yemen open. Oman has also played a conciliatory role between the Houthis and their Gulf enemies, hosting peace talks and facilitating prisoner exchanges.The sultanate was also the only Gulf Arab country that kept its embassy in Damascus open throughout Syria's now 9-year civil war.


---AP, Dubai


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