Sultan Qaboos of Oman dies aged 79

Three days of official mourning in Oman and the UAE after the longest ruling leader in the Middle East passes away

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Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the Omani leader who ruled the country for nearly half a century, has passed away at age 79.

His death was announced by the official Oman News Agency.

"With sadness ... the Omani Sultanate court mourns ... our Sultan Qaboos bin Said ... who God chose to be by his side on Friday evening," the agency said.

Sultan Qaboos, the longest-ruling Arab monarch, had been ill for some time.

The Royal court of Oman put out a statement this morning saying: “To the people of the beloved homeland in all its districts, to the Arab and Islamic nations and to the world at large. It is with hearts filled with faith in Allah and his Providence, and with great sorrow and deep sadness – yet with complete satisfaction and absolute submission to the will of the Almighty Allah, that the Diwan of Royal Court mourns His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, who passed away on Friday, the 14th of Jumada Al-Ula, the 10th of January 2020."

Oman’s Defence Council has announced that Haitham bin Tariq Al Said will be his successor.

Haitham bin Tariq has served in a range of government roles and is well known and respected among Omani citizens.

The written constitution required the ruling family to choose a successor within three days of the throne falling vacant.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, sent out a message on Twitter mourning the death of Sultan Qaboos.

"The Sultan of love and wisdom has passed," said Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid on Twitter: "Our condolences to the people of Oman, and wish that God give them patience during their time of mourning."

The UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed has also ordered a three-day mourning period, starting on Saturday, and that the national flag to be flown at half-mast at all government departments across the country and at all embassies and diplomatic missions overseas.

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed sent out a message of condolences to the people of Oman, saying: "Oman has lost a great and wise leader in Sultan Qaboos. A brother and companion of the late Sheikh Zayed. May God rest his soul."

“Today we lost a historic and renaissance figure of high class with the death of Sultan Qaboos,” UAE’s Minister of State or Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash wrote on Twitter.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, said: "Today we have lost a leader dedicated to serving his people and their renaissance".

King Abdullah of Jordan also sent a message of condolence: "We have lost a wise leader", he wrote on Twitter, "a dear friend of my father the late King Hussein and supporter of Jordan in defending Arab and Islamic causes. May God rest his soul in peace and grant the people of Oman patience and fortitude."

In the United States, former President George W. Bush issued a statement saying that he and former first lady Laura Bush are saddened by the sultan’s death.

“He was a stable force in the Middle East and a strong US ally. His Majesty had a vision for a modern, prosperous, and peaceful Oman, and he willed that vision into reality,” Bush said, adding that he and his wife visited him in Muscat last fall.

The US embassy in Oman extended its condolences to the Omani people for the passing of Sultan Qaboos. It said "his steadfast leadership embodied his sincerity, his generosity, his tolerance and his deep love for his country", adding that he will be missed the world over.

The British embassy issued a statement, stating that Sultan Qaboos "was a true friend of the UK, renowned for his wisdom, compassion and vision. He worked selflessly to develop Oman and promote peace and tolerance".

UK prime minister Boris Johnson expressed sadness at the sultan's death, calling him an "exceptionally wise and respected leader".