Oman’s foreign minister meets Bashar Al Assad in rare Syria visit

The pair discussed bilateral relations and regional security

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, meets with Oman's Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi, left, in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, July 7, 2019. Alawi made a rare visit to Damascus where he discussed with President Bashar Assad ways of restoring stability and security in the region.(SANA via AP)
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Oman’s foreign minister met Syrian President Bashar Al Assad in Damascus on Sunday, the Gulf official’s second visit to the war-wracked country since conflict broke out in 2011.

Yusuf bin Alawi, the Omani State Minister for Foreign Affairs, discussed bilateral relations and regional security with President Al Assad, the sultanate’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

It added that Mr Alawi also met his Syrian counterpart, Walid Muallem.

Oman is one of the few Arab states to have maintained ties with Damascus over the past eight years throughout a bloody war that has left more than half a million people dead.

Syria was suspended from the Arab League in 2011 for its deadly crackdown on an uprising against President Al Assad’s rule, and fellow Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, have supported the opposition.

Oman’s Sultan Qaboos Al Said adheres to a strict policy of non-intervention in regional affairs, maintaining relations with rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran – a leading backer of the Assad regime.

Mr Alawi visited Damascus in 2015, Syria’s official SANA news agency reported at the time, to discuss ways to “resolve the crisis in Syria”.

During a visit to Oman last year, Mr Muallem praised Muscat for taking “supportive positions towards Syria at various Arab and international forums”, the state-run Oman News Agency reported.

Syria’s once rocky ties with the region are on the rebound.

The United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus late last year after years of closure, and Syria’s relations with Bahrain and Jordan have also improved. But Saudi Arabia remains hostile to President Al Assad, who has made a military comeback with support from Russia since 2015, clawing back almost two-thirds of the country.

Syria’s multi-fronted war has killed more than 500,000 people and displaced millions since it began with the repression of anti-regime protests in 2011.