Omani foreign minister makes rare visit to Syria

BEIRUT (AP) — Oman’s foreign minister made a rare visit to Syria on Sunday to discuss with President Bashar Assad ways of restoring stability and security in the region.

Oman is one of few Arab countries that kept normal relations with Damascus after Syria was suspended from the Arab League in 2011 over its crackdown on Arab Spring protests.

The Syrian Presidency said Assad discussed regional and international affairs with Oman’s Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi, as well as “economic and political challenges imposed on the region.”

Syria’s state news agency SANA said the Omani official met his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Moallem to discuss regional affairs. Al-Moallem visited Oman in March 2018.

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Oman’s foreign ministry tweeted that Alawi delivered a message from the sultan of Oman and talked about boosting efforts “to restore stability and security in the region.”

Oman has good relations with Western countries as well as Iran — a key ally of the Syrian government — and has often played a mediating role in regional disputes.

In December, the United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Syria’s capital for the first time in seven years. Bahrain followed days later by resuming work at its embassy in Damascus, but no other Arab countries have taken similar steps.

Most Arab countries in the Gulf supported the opposition against Assad. Arab countries have sanctioned Damascus and condemned Assad for using overwhelming military force and failing to negotiate with the opposition.

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