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Saudi-Omani Relations: A Prospective Partnership towards development

Saudi-Omani Relations: A Prospective Partnership towards development

The course of Saudi-Omani relations extended from the first Saudi state to the present time, where these relations were founded on ties of religion and nationalism.

 This history of relations between the two countries enhanced mutual political and economic integration between the two leaderships, as well as the fact that these two countries were among the founders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in 1981.

Strategic Locations

The Saudi-Omani relations strengthen the strategic basis that transcends the temporary stages, as these relations are based on solid ties through important strategic locations on the open seas, where the two countries are located in contact with regional and international locations.

KSA overlooks the Red Sea in its west and the Arabian Gulf in its east, while The Sultanate of Oman is located on one of the most important sea straits in that is considered the energy artery of the world which is the Strait of Hormuz.

Through the strategic location of the two brotherly countries, the political, economic, and social vision was formed, and fruitful movements emerged between the leaderships of the two countries.

Among the factors that created political and economic harmony between the two brotherly countries were the diplomatic and economic movements that were monitored in all fields, in addition to recent visits of the foreign ministers of the two countries during the last phase.

2021 Sultan of Oman’s visit to Saudi Arabia

The recent 2021 visit of Sultan Haitham bin Tariq to the Saudi kingdom is significant, due to several factors most notably that this visit is the first official since he took power in January of last year.

The meeting of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz with Sultan Haitham bin Tariq is the culmination of historical relations and the strategic position of the two countries at the level of some strategic files, both concerning the two countries’ economic and commercial relations, in the field of investment.

Since Sultan Haitham bin Tariq took over power in Oman, the bilateral relations have been experiencing a remarkable recovery and increased diplomatic coordination through number of visits between leaders and officials of the two countries.

 The most prominent of them was a short visit last year, paid by King Salman at the head of a high-ranking delegation to Muscat, during which he met Sultan Haitham to offer his condolences on the death of Qaboos bin Said, the late Sultan of Oman.

Deep Bilateral Relationships

The 2021 visit of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said to the Kingdom came in response to an invitation from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz. The visit reflects the depth of Saudi-Omani relations in various fields.

Saudi Arabia is the Sultan’s first foreign visit

Sultan Haitham’s choice of the kingdom as the first stop in his official foreign visits schedule confirms the importance of the kingdom to the Omanis as a big partner, reinforced by the unity of the common destiny between the two countries.

The two brotherly countries are working to strengthen economic relations between them through enhancing cooperation in the field of trade to benefit from the available investment opportunities for the sake of achieving the vision of the Kingdom 2030 and the vision of Oman 2040.

Common Vision & Projects

The two countries aspire that the establishment of the Saudi-Omani Coordination Council will contribute to developing a common vision and sustaining relations between them.

The establishment of the aforementioned council will also raise the level of integration in the political, security, and military fields, as well as in the fields of economy and human development, in a way that serves the goals of the two countries.

Joint Trade Exchange

Concerning trade exchange, the total amounted to about $3.36 billion in 2020, including iron, steel, and organic chemical products, while the value of Saudi non-oil exports to the Sultanate of Oman amounted to $1.16 billion, including metal products, iron or steel products, and food.

Economic Cooperation

On the economic level, the Kingdom and Oman maintain a strong relationship, reinforced by the presence of the two countries as members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which adopts joint initiatives to strengthen the economies of the member states.

The recent period witnessed mutual visits, where the discussion between officials included investment opportunities between the two countries, in talks on diversifying economies and sectors with investment opportunities.

The Ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman in the Kingdom, Mr. Faisal bin Turki Al Said, has made it clear in a recent meeting between the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Saudi Chambers that it is very important to determine the areas of economic movement between the two countries.

He noted the importance of having a clear framework for the role of private sector institutions in trade agreements, in addition to forming sectorial teams in agriculture, trade, and industry to crystallize the council’s goals on the ground and invest in the convergence of views between the two countries to activate the proposed programs.

Investment opportunities of SR 15 billion.

Recently, a Saudi delegation comprising some government and private agencies offered about 150 investment opportunities in Oman, estimated at SR 15 billion, in the sectors of real estate development, industry, tourism, fisheries, renewable energy, and petrochemicals.

This was during a meeting that brought together members of the Saudi-Omani Business Council and some business owners.

Through these great efforts of all sectors here, the importance of joint economic and investment relations is highlighted, as the two leaderships aspire to raise the level of trade exchange between them to a higher level, benefit from the two countries’ potentials in this context, and activate the work of the Omani-Saudi Joint Committee.

The Kingdom’s vision 2030 and Oman 2040 include many giants and diverse projects that require cooperation between them to achieve them for the benefit of the two brotherly countries and peoples. 

The developed industrial areas in the Kingdom can be linked to Duqm and the port of Salalah.

Through this point, an economic movement can be rotated and activated, which will increase trade exchange between the two countries for broader prospects over the next few years.

New Linking Road

The coming days will witness the opening of the land road between the Kingdom and the Sultanate of Oman, which will activate cooperation and economic and trade relations between Muscat and Riyadh, facilitate many things, and activate many important aspects for both countries.

The road linking the Kingdom and the Sultanate of Oman is considered a strategic road. It is a direct road through the (Empty Quarter) and directly from the Omani lands from the north of the Sultanate to Saudi lands.

The new road shortens a distance of 800 km; this is considered a great qualitative development as highways between countries are bridges of communication between peoples.

 This port also contributes to opening the way for the movement of goods from the Kingdom through the land roads in the Sultanate, to its ports, which will facilitate the export of Saudi goods to the world.

Integration in Political Views

Yemen Conflict

The Sultanate of Oman played the role of mediator to bring the parties to the conflict closer; it entered the mediation line to persuade the Iranian-backed Houthi group to enter into a political dialogue with the legitimate Yemeni government.

Oman continues, in coordination with the Kingdom, its efforts to stop the escalation, it (Oman) conducts several visits to the Houthi group to support diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire in the country mired in war.

Sultan Haitham Invents New Path in Oman 

Since Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said took the constitutional oath to succeed the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the attention of the Omani public has turned to the first decisions that he will take upon assuming power.

 He issued many decisions in his first hundred days as an authority on these principles, including highlighting the role of workers, reforms in the powers of the Shura Council, restructuring the state, and opening job opportunities for the Sultanate’s youth.

Historical Stage

Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said’s assumption of power in the Sultanate of Oman came at an important historical stage, given the political, economic, social, and health changes and challenges that the region and the world are witnessing, which require dealing with them, taking into account the preservation of the established traditions of governance in the Sultanate.

Effective Reforms.

Since assuming power in Oman, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq took the initiative to announce political, financial, and economic reforms, and to develop the structure of state agencies and institutions, to become more effective in meeting the hopes and aspirations of the Omani people and preserving the safety and stability of the country.

He also pledged to continue the approach adopted by the Sultanate of Oman in its foreign policy, by committing not to interfere in the affairs of other countries, and to advance the process of cooperation between the countries of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf.

Accumulated Experience

On the other hand, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq faces current and future challenges with an accumulated experience of diplomatic and governmental work, which spanned for many years before assuming power, especially his assumption of the presidency of the main committee for the future vision “Oman 2040”.

A Prominent Role for the Omani Ruling family

The most notable decision made by Sultan Haitham during his early days in power was to appoint his brother Shihab bin Tariq as Deputy Prime Minister for Defense Affairs.

 This position, which was effectively replaced by the position of Minister in charge of Defense Affairs, had been vacant for years; however, Haitham reinstated this position and appointed his brother to it by Royal Decree No. 14/2020, which gave him executive powers over all military entities in the country.

During Sultan Qaboos’ rule, Shihab held the position of Commander of the Royal Navy in Oman for 14 years, which gave him direct and extensive knowledge of the Ministry of Defense.

Moreover, Sultan Haitham’s brother, Asaad bin Tariq, holds the position of Deputy Prime Minister for International Relations and Cooperation Affairs.

Legislation Update

Sultan Haitham was never far from the general political and economic climate in Oman over the past two decades as he held important executive positions, most notably the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before becoming Minister of Heritage and Culture for nearly two decades.

 He also served as the Chairman of the main committee for the Oman 2040 Vision, which he prepares as an important roadmap that provides a framework for governance and development in the coming decades.

It seems that the desired goals of “Oman 2040” require a fundamental update of the laws and the legislative process, in addition to more international political and economic commitments, in addition to commitments to international laws.

A Look into the Sultanate’s Resources

The Sultanate of Oman enjoys a charming nature, mountainous, coastal and desert, and ancient civilizational heritage. It used to rule the coasts of East Africa, from its capital, Zanzibar, and the east of the Arabian Gulf in Persia and the Indian continent.

Allah (God) blessed the Sultanate with oil, mineral, and fish treasures, most of which have not been exploited yet. Perhaps the most important of them is the young human resources, with a high level of education and professionalism, and an urgent need for more self-employment opportunities and high-quality jobs.

Oman Vision 2040

As the godfather of the Omani Vision 2040, the Sultan (Haitham Bin Tarek) has planned an ambitious program to achieve economic balance and diversify sources of income, thereby reducing dependence on oil as the main resource.

He worked to enhance the performance of the government with young faces, reduce and merge ministries by distributing them to political, economic, and social sectors, modernize the provincial system and the Shura Council, and preserve public freedoms and human rights.

The vision was keen to open the doors for investment and international cooperation by emphasizing the importance of the human being, society, governance, and diversifying sources of income, and focusing on the manufacturing industries of oil, logistics, and tourism.

Saudi-Omani Future Visions Coincide

The Omani Vision 2040, led by Sultan Haitham, is in line with the Saudi Vision 2030 and its godfather, Prince Muhammad bin Salman. The two visions work on developing society and the economy, relying on science, education, and training, to prepare citizens and empower youth and women to lead the next stage.

The two countries are distinguished by solid political, economic stability, and the availability of a young, educated, and motivated workforce, to achieve development goals, and to establish advanced infrastructure and superstructures.

The visions also coincide in keenness to exploit the strategic location of the two countries, which links three continents and is located on four seas (the Red, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman, and the Arabian Gulf) and the two oceans (Indian and Pacific).

The visions agree to benefit from education and training products over the past decades, by focusing on transcontinental transportation, international logistics, investment in the energy, mining, and agricultural sectors, petrochemical, military, and consumer industries, in addition to tourism, trade, and shopping.

To achieve this, the two countries have worked in recent decades to develop land, air, and sea transportation networks, and improve the hotel, leisure and marketing services, and traditional and sustainable energy products.

For its part, Oman was keen to establish an infrastructure that includes two major integrated ports, “Sohar” on the Gulf of Oman, and “Duqm” on the Arabian Sea, and free industrial and commercial cities, with joint Omani-Saudi investments.

It has also developed airports and tourist sites, and linked them all to a network of modern roads and trains, both internal and external, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE and from there to the rest of the Gulf countries, and with Yemen.

Saudi – Omani Comprehensive Coordination

 The establishment of the Saudi-Omani Coordination Council, formed of ministers concerned with the sectors of industry, investment, transport, and trade, in addition to defense, foreign affairs, and the interior, comes to develop specific and effective mechanisms to activate and accelerate cooperation agreements between the two countries, with a continuous evaluation of the performance of economic, social and cultural activities between the two countries.

The Council also works to confront the challenges that may face the projects, and to add flexibility to the work of the private economy, and to reduce the time to achieve the goals.

The Ministerial Council is responsible for reconciling political, economic, and societal visions in the fields of investment, economy, and communications.

Among the signs of this cooperation are 25 investment projects in Oman, the granting of 318 Omani investment licenses in the Kingdom, a proposed project for an industrial city on the border, with joint and international investments, and another for an oil pipeline extending from Shaybah wells east of the Empty Quarter on the UAE border.

Typical Relationship

Saudi-Omani relations provide a model for optimal Arab relations, as they are based on building political, economic, and cultural bridges, maximizing common interests, investing in the citizen, and building the future.

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