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Israel PM makes secret Oman visit

Israel PM makes secret Oman visit”

In a joint statement, the two leaders said the two sides "discussed ways to advance the Middle East peace process and discussed a number of issues of mutual interest to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East".

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi described Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Oman as an attempt to create rifts among Muslim states and "cover up its 70-year-long occupation of Palestine and the massacre of Palestinians".

The visit comes after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' visit to Oman earlier this week, raising the prospect that the sultanate may mediate between the two sides.

The meeting was the first between leaders of the two countries since 1996.

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Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, along with Mossad head Yossi Cohen and others, visited the Gulf state earlier this week and returned Friday, according to the Prime Minister's Office.

"History and experience have proved that surrendering to the illegitimate demands of the U.S. and the Israeli regime will further embolden them to exert pressure and advance their agenda in the region and to ignore the inalienable rights of the Palestinian nation", Iran's Press TV quoted Qassemi as saying. Israel is only officially recognized by two Arab states - Egypt and Jordan. The US has also cut funding to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees and shuttered the Palestinian Liberation Organization office in Washington.

Despite being a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Oman has not joined the Saudi-led boycott of Qatar or its military intervention in Yemen. Unlike many Arab states, Oman has also maintained relations with Syria.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made an unannounced visit to Oman, an Arab state with which Israel has no diplomatic ties, and met with Sultan Qaboos.

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Muscat, however, suspended relations again following the outbreak of the second Palestinian Intifada in 2000.

Meanwhile, Israel's Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev on Friday arrived in the UAE for the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam Judo tournament in which Israel's national team is competing.

In February, Oman's foreign minister made a rare visit by an Arab official to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound and to the West Bank.

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