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ARAB AFFAIRS - Dec 24 - Saudi-Oman Ties Get Big Boost.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Sultan Qaboos of Oman hold talks on major regional and international issues and explored ways of strengthening bilateral co-operation in all areas, an official statement after their meeting at Al-Alam Palace said. "The two leaders discussed the latest developments at Gulf, Arab, Islamic and international levels and the stands of the two countries toward them", said the statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency. The talks were attended by FM Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Director of Intelligence Prince Muqrin, State Minister Prince Abdul Aziz ibn Fahd, Labor Minister Dr. Ghazi Al-Gosaibi, Finance Minister Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf, Culture and Information Minister Iyad Madani and Saudi Ambassador Abdullah Aalam. On the Omani side, the major participants were: Heritage and Culture Minister Haithem ibn Tarek Al-Saeed, FM Yousuf ibn Alawi Abdullah, National Economy Minister Ahmad Makki, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Salim Al-Khaleeli and Omani Ambassador to Riyadh Saeed Al-Kalabani. In a previous statement, Omani FM Abdullah said the Saudi-Omani summit talks in Muscat would cover all the important issues. "They have discussed most issues at the Dec. 9-10 GCC summit in Riyadh. Now, their talks will focus on the latest developments in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon", he said. King Abdullah arrived here on Saturday at the head of a high-level delegation, his first after ascending to the throne in August 2005. Officials in both countries said the three-day royal visit would strengthen relations between the two GCC neighbours. As a manifestation of their close relations, King Abdullah conferred on Sultan Qaboos the King Abdul Aziz Medallion, the Kingdom's top honour. Qaboos reciprocated by awarding the king the Medal of Oman of the first order. The medals were exchanged during a ceremony here Dec 23 night. Oman has attached great importance to Abdullah's visit. "The king's visit is aimed at promoting bilateral relations and discussing major regional, Arab and international issues", said Omani Ambassador Al-Kalabani. The two countries recently signed an agreement on a border point. Trade between the two countries is to get a major boost as it was to figure high at the summit talks. Bilateral trade exchange amounted to SR2.3 bn last year, but the figure accounted for only 7.6% of the total trade exchange between the Kingdom and GCC countries. The trade balance is in favor of Saudi Arabia, which exported goods worth SR1.37 bn to Oman last year. Empowerment of the Gulf Co-operation Council, that groups Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE, is another expected result of the royal visit as both King Abdullah and Sultan Qaboos have been campaigning for a strong GCC. "Saudi Arabia and Oman believe that a strong GCC is essential to make the group more influential", said Saudi Ambassador Abdullah Aalam.

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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Date:Dec 30, 2006
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