Israel renewing Oman ties, opportunity for more: spy chief
Jerusalem (AFP) –
The head of Israel's intelligence agency Mossad said Monday his country was renewing ties with Oman and had an "unprecedented opportunity" for a thaw with other Arab states.
"Just recently, renewal of formal relations with Oman was declared and the establishment of a representative office of the (Israeli) foreign ministry in that country," Yossi Cohen told a security conference in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv.
"That is only the visible tip of a much broader secret effort," he said, adding that in addition to Israel's historic treaties with Jordan and Egypt other Arab countries had discreetly joined "the states of peace, some of them in an unseen manner."
"We do not yet have with them official peace treaties but there is already a communality of interests, broad cooperation and open channels of communication," he added.
Israel and Oman agreed to open trade representative offices in the 1990s, but in 2000 the Gulf sultanate closed them after the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada.
Cohen said the current climate presents "an unprecedented opportunity, perhaps the first in the history of the Middle East, to reach a regional understanding which could lead to a comprehensive peace agreement."
The Israeli foreign ministry declined to comment on his remarks.
In October, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held surprise talks with Oman's Sultan Qaboos in Muscat.
The recent moves have raised Palestinian fears of a normalisation of ties.
Last week Oman said it would open an embassy in the Palestinian territories in support of the Palestinian people, in a first for a Gulf Arab state.
The announcement was greeted warily by senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi, who warned Oman against using the new embassy as a step towards establishing formal relations with Israel.
"If this has a political price attached then certainly there will be ramifications," she said.
Mutual concerns about Shiite Iran have lately highlighted common interests between some Arab countries and Israel.
In an apparently unprecedented step, a handful of Israeli journalists invited by the White House flew openly to Bahrain last week for a US-sponsored workshop unveiling economic planks of a broader plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
The Gulf state has no diplomatic relations with Israel.
On Monday the Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement that Foreign Minister Israel Katz had visited Abu Dhabi for a UN climate conference, where he met United Nations chief Antonio Guterres and an unnamed "high ranking UAE official".
The United Arab Emirates do not have formal diplomatic ties with the Jewish state but Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev paid a visit to Abu Dhabi in October.
The statement did not say when Katz was there but described his visit as the first by a senior Israeli minister since the Bahrain conference.
? 2019 AFP