Sultan Haitham of Oman meets Saudi King Salman on first official trip

Omani leader is accompanied by high-level delegation of officials and diplomats

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Oman’s ruler, Sultan Haitham, arrived in Saudi Arabia on Sunday afternoon for his first official foreign visit.

Sultan Haitham was welcomed at Neom airport by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as an orchestra played and the flags of both countries fluttered on the runway.

Saudi Arabia rolled out its purple carpet for the arrival, as the two men walked past a military honour guard.

Prince Mohammed and Sultan Haitham sat for a meeting after the airport reception.

Soon after, Saudi King Salman joined the two men and greeted Sultan Haitham with a handshake.

A document establishing the Omani-Saudi Co-ordination Council was signed on Wednesday evening by Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr Al Busaidi, and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.

Oman and Saudi Arabia exchanged gifts after the signing, with the Omani Sultan presenting King Salman with the Order of Al Said, the highest decoration that can be granted.

King Salman gave the sultan the King Abdulaziz necklace.

Prince Faisal said the sultan's trip reflected "the depth of bonds and fraternal ties between the leaderships of the two countries and their combined political will and common vision".

"The visit is of great importance, it portrays the historical relations between the two countries, which are still based on mutual respect, serving common interests and constructive co-operation in addressing Arab and Islamic issues in achieving peace and security," he said.

Prince Mohammed and Sultan Haitham watched the 2020 European Championship final between England and Italy together in Neom.

Prince Mohammed accompanied his guest on a tour of the Neom Centre for Knowledge Enrichment on Sunday evening and discussed matters related to the Neom and Red Sea project, Amaala, Al Ula and Qiddiya.

While in the kingdom for the two-day visit, Sultan Haitham and Saudi officials will discuss measures to further enhance relations between the two Gulf states.

Sultan of Oman arrives in Saudi Arabia's Neom - video

Sultan of Oman arrives in Saudi Arabia's Neom - video

He is accompanied by a high-level delegation of officials and diplomats, including Deputy Prime Minister for Defence Affairs Shihab bin Tarik and Interior Minister Sayyid Hamoud Al Busaidi.

The ministers of commerce and transport and the head of the Oman Investment Authority are also accompanying the sultan.

Muscat’s ambassador to Riyadh, Sayyid Faisal Al Said, said talks would focus on enhancing co-operation between the two states in various sectors.

Mr Al Said said Saudi Arabia was a crucial economic partner to Oman.

He spoke of “the profound bilateral relations and concordance between Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and Oman’s Vision 2040”, the countries’ economic development initiatives.

Riyadh’s ambassador to Muscat, Abdullah Al Enezi, said Sultan Haitham’s visit to the kingdom would be a “historic moment for the countries to formulate a common vision in developing economic relations”.

Mr Al Enezi said trade between Oman and Saudi Arabia had increased greatly in recent years.

Sultan Haitham’s visit to the kingdom at the invitation of King Salman echoes that of his predecessor, Sultan Qaboos, who travelled to Saudi Arabia in 1971 at the invitation of King Faisal on his first official visit after becoming ruler of Oman.

A member of Oman’s government, Aisha Al Darmaki, said Sultan Haitham’s undertaking of the same first official visit shows the depth of relations between Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Ms Al Darmaki said it would strengthen those ties, which are based on mutual respect, co-operation and an understanding of regional and international affairs.

“The visit is of great importance in strengthening bilateral co-operation between the two countries within the framework of a strategic partnership,” she said.

Ms Al Darmaki also spoke of the strength of the partnership between the kingdom and the sultanate to combat Covid-19.

“Oman and Saudi Arabia work hand in hand to provide pharmaceutical and food stocks during the pandemic in order to reduce its health, economic and social impacts,” she said.

Sultan Haitham came to the throne 18 months ago, after the death of Sultan Qaboos in January 2020.

Last week, officials said the final phase of construction for a major motorway linking the countries was under way.

The road will stretch from Ibri in Oman to the Ramlet Khelah border crossing and into Shaybah, Saudi Arabia.

Running through one of the largest deserts in the world, it will slash the journey time between the countries and could boost trade and tourism.

Updated: July 12, 2021, 12:29 AM