Oman's Sultan Haitham sets out agenda of peace in public address

The new Sultan said his government would continue his predecessor's drive towards peace in the region

Oman's Sultan Haitham bin Tariq meets with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at al-Alam palace in the capital Muscat, Friday Feb. 21, 2020. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via AP)
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Oman's Sultan Haitham Bin Tariq Al Said has promised a continuation of his predecessor's agenda of peace in his first public address since the end of 40 days of mourning for Sultan Qaboos.

In televised comments on Sunday, Oman's new Sultan said his government would continue his predecessor's drive towards peace in the region, calling on his citizens to "give us your trust".

"The message of the Sultan is to spread peace around the world," he said. "We are aware of the regional challenges that have arisen which will impact us and our surroundings, we are resilient to them."

Sultan Haitham previously served as secretary general for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1994 to 2002, before becoming minister for heritage and culture.

Sultan Haitham also addressed Oman's youth, promising to "ensure that we will listen and meet their demands" as part of a drive of modernisation. He added that education, science and development would be the country's main national priorities.

Oman's population is one of the youngest in the world, with 40 per cent of its 4.9 million citizens under the age of 25. The World Bank estimates the country has a youth unemployment rate of 49 per cent.

The messaging signalled business as usual for the Oman 2040 Vision, which the late Sultan unveiled in 2018.

The 20-year plan targets a growth rate of 5 per cent per year by boosting tourism, agriculture, technological innovation and start-up businesses.

"Youth are our nation's wealth, they are our present and future and we are keen and dedicated to listening to them," he said, adding that Oman would give women "their full rights".

"We will dedicate our lives for Oman and its citizens; we are calling you to support us and to give us your trust," he said.

He said the government will also work on reducing public debt and the fiscal deficit, as well as restructuring the public apparatus and companies.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who ruled the country for five decades, died in January. Sultan Haitham was named as his successor just hours after his death when a sealed envelope nominating him was opened.

Sultan Haitham's comments on regional peace came two days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited the Sultanate. Before his visit, Mr Pompeo said the relationship between the two nations was "critical to our mutual national security objectives, including countering terrorism and promoting regional stability."

The new Sultan began his leadership last week by pardoning 282 prisoners. He also visited Al Shomoukh Palace in the Manah, a royal camp set up by Sultan Qaboos in the 1990s to meet local dignitaries in the Dakhliya Region.