Oman's Sultan Haitham hosts Syria's Assad in Muscat after earthquake

The visit comes two weeks after disaster that killed tens of thousands in Syria and Turkey

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Syrian President Bashar Al Assad arrived in Muscat for a working visit to Oman on Monday.

He was greeted by Sultan Haitham, and the leaders travelled to Al Baraka Palace for talks. It is a rare official trip to a Gulf nation in more than a decade of civil war at home.

Sultan Haitham “renewed his condolences and sincere sympathy” for the victims of the February 6 earthquake, which killed almost 45,000 people in Syria and Turkey, Oman's state news agency reported.

Mr Al Assad thanked Oman for its efforts to help with the earthquake recovery.

His office quoted Mr Assad as saying that Oman preserved “its balanced policies and credibility” adding that the region needs the role of Oman to strengthen relations between Arab countries based on “mutual respect and noninterference in other countries' affairs.”

Syria is still reeling from the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that reduced hundreds of buildings in the north-west of the country to rubble. The most affected regions, however, lie outside the Syrian regime's control.

Aid has taken days to get to those in need from Damascus and from across the border in Turkey.

Oman has maintained ties with Syria throughout the twelve years of civil conflict sparked by a 2011 uprising, despite the Arab League suspending Syria from its membership.

The Sultanate sent a new ambassador to Syria in 2020- the first since 2012 to represent the country from inside Syria- and Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr Albusaidi visited Damascus in January 2022.

Oman's Royal Air Force has conducted aid flights to Syria since the earthquake.

Oman experienced its own earthquake last week. On Sunday a 4.1-magnitude earthquake was detected near Duqm, but no injuries were reported.

Updated: February 20, 2023, 7:50 PM