Omani minister holds talks with Assad in Damascus

Visit comes amid increasing international diplomacy efforts to end Syrian conflict.

Omani foreign minister Yusuf bin Alawi addresses the 70th session of the UN General Assembly in New York on October 3, 2015. Eduardo Munoz / Reuters
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ABU DHABI // Oman’s foreign minister Yusuf bin Alawi met Syrian president Bashar Al Assad in Damascus on Monday.

The meeting was the latest in months of increased international diplomacy aimed at ending the conflict in Syria, which began in 2011 after peaceful protests aimed at ending the Assad regime’s decades-long rule descended into violence.

The Syrian state news agency reported that Mr Alawi had “affirmed Oman commitment to Syria’s unity and sovereignty” and would continue to help find a solution to the conflict.

Unlike its Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) partners, Oman has maintained diplomatic ties with the Assad regime throughout the conflict.

Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said has traditionally pursued policies that kept the country out of regional conflicts and aimed to play a mediator role.

In August, the Syrian foreign minister Walid Al Muallem visited Oman for talks on resolving the conflict in Syria, which has grown into a regional proxy war.

At about the same time, international powers supporting the different actors began a fresh push to end the war, which took on a greater international significance after the extremist group ISIL took over large parts of Syria and Iraq.

Saudi Arabia and the United States, key supporters of Mr Al Assad’s opponents, still insist that there is no room for him in the future of Syria. However, on Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said that some progress had been made in the talks to end the conflict.

Oman’s best known diplomatic success was bringing the United States and Iran together for historic talks that led to an international deal in July over Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme.