Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Saudi Arabia, Oman sign deals worth $30 bn

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Saudi Arabia signed deals with Oman valued at $30 billion, state media said Tuesday, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began a tour of Gulf Arab countries, including former rival Qatar.

Saudi and Omani companies “signed 13 memoranda of understanding worth $30 billion”, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

The MoUs between the two countries, which seek to diversify their economies away from oil, range from cooperation in the energy and tourism sectors to finance and technology.

Prince Mohammed, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, arrived in Muscat on Monday night, the first stop in a regional tour ahead a Gulf Arab summit in mid-December.

He met with Sultan Haitham bin Tareq, who ascended the throne in January last year, after the death of his cousin Sultan Qaboos.

According to SPA, Prince Mohammed will also visit the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar.

His trip to Doha will mark the first visit since Saudi Arabia and Qatar severed ties four years ago.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut all links with Qatar in June 2017, alleging it backed radical Islamist groups and was too close to Riyadh’s rival Tehran — allegations Doha denied.

They restored full relations with Qatar in January after a landmark summit.

The prince’s tour comes amid a flurry of diplomacy to resolve regional disputes, especially with Iran and Turkey.

There have been signs of a thaw between Saudi Arabia and Iran in recent weeks, with Tehran and Riyadh holding several rounds of talks since April aimed at improving ties.

Meanwhile, Turkey has sought to rebuild relations with former rivals in the Gulf, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Simmering tensions between Ankara and Riyadh escalated after the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.

Prince Mohammed’s tour coincides with a visit to Doha by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday, although Qatar’s foreign minister has said it was coincidental.

Erdogan, whose country is reeling from a fresh economic crisis and is searching for foreign investment and trade, met with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on Tuesday.

One of suspected killers of Jamal Khashoggi held in France

The two discussed enhancing their countries’ cooperation in various fields, including the economy, defence and security, and sports, the Qatar News Agency said.

The Gulf states are seeking to diversify their economies away from oil, investing heavily in recent years in the tourism, entertainment and sports sectors.

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