Syrian foreign minister visits Oman in new sign of normalised relations

The two countries began restoring ties last year as Syria's long civil conflict drew to a close

Syria's Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad (C) tours the National Museum in the Omani capital Muscat, March 20, 2021. / AFP / MOHAMMED MAHJOUB
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Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad arrived in Oman on Saturday on a visit expected to last several days, Omani state media said.

Mr Mekdad visited the National Museum in Muscat with a delegation of senior officials from Oman's foreign ministry, including Ambassador Khaled bin Saeed Al
Jaradi. At the museum, they viewed artefacts from the ancient city of Palmyra.

Palmyra and much of its ancient heritage was destroyed by ISIS during the terror group's occupation of parts of central and east Syria.

In 2019, Russia's State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg and the National Museum of Oman began an effort to restore 20 artefacts from Palmyra, which were damaged in the conflict with ISIS.

Last year, Oman became the first Gulf country to fully normalise relations with Syria following nine years of tumultuous civil conflict.

In October, Syria's late Foreign Minister Walid Al Muallim received the credentials of Oman’s representative, Ambassador Sayyid Turki Al Busaidi.

Regional moves toward peace

Oman has long positioned itself as a neutral country and venue for dialogue and cooperation, particularly following mounting regional tensions between the US and Iran, and worsening civil conflict in Yemen and Syria.

A growing number of countries share Oman's position, following an emerging international consensus that there could be no military solution to the Syrian crisis.

In 2018, the UAE's former minister of state for foreign affairs Dr Anwar Gargash announced that the UAE would be re-opening its embassy in Damascus, for "political and diplomatic work". An influx of aid followed, aiming to ease the country's humanitarian crisis which has seen as many as 12 million people internally displaced or forced to flee abroad.

Jordan re-opened border crossings in 2018, part of a formal effort to restore trade ties.

Debate has now moved to whether Syria will be re-admitted to the Arab League.

Last week, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed called for Syria to be readmitted to the pan-Arab body to ensure a regional effort in attempting to mediate an end to the bloody civil war.