Muscat: Omani foreign policy is continually being formed in accordance with a set of principles and facts. At the forefront of these principles and facts are the thoughts of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos and his vision for international relations, in order to constitute the diplomatic rhythm of Oman, which is keen now and in the future to establish friendly relations with the entire world.
Oman has been working tirelessly to promote good and equal relations with other countries, and to adopt a policy of good neighborliness and non-interference in others’ internal affairs, and maintaining respect for international law, conventions and customs.
“Our relations with the neighbouring countries and other countries of the world have been progressing and all parties concerned have been putting conscious efforts to nurture the same to take them to the next level,” said a senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Oman’s geographical location has given it a strategic position in this region as the country is surrounded by ocean on two sides — Oman Sea in the north-east, Arabian Sea in the east and Indian Ocean in the south-east.
It shares a maritime border in the Strait of Hormuz with Iran, which is of great economic and strategic importance. Oman is bordered in the north-west by the United Arab Emirates, in the west by Saudi Arabia and in the south-west by Yemen.
This geographical location has its impact in linking the Sultanate with many countries that overlook the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, in outlining its foreign policy and its relations with neighbourng and non-neighbouring states, and in working on the safety of navigation and freedom of transit, thus preserving the security and stability of the region.
The Sultanate, being an active member in all international organizations of the United Nations, prioritises respect for international laws and conventions, and supports cooperation between countries or regions.
The personal attributes of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos are considered one of the most important key elements in the formulation of Oman’s foreign policy. The attributes of His Majesty and his vision at the internal and international level were the key to building a modern state in Oman since the dawn of the Renaissance in 1970.
His Majesty’s policies have enjoyed complete support by the Omani public and have earned him the capacity to influence and achieve impressive development results at the local perspective.
At the international level, His Majesty has gained respect of heads of state around the world, thanks to his wise foreign policy which relies on restraint and non-exaggeration. His Majesty’s foreign policy is also characterized by discretion and civility, particularly when it comes to political positions, by adopting a consistent and rational approach on these positions.
The Sultanate has joined a number of Arab, regional and international groupings to contribute to the dissemination of the umbrella of international peace and security efforts and connect the Sultanate with the peoples of the region on the basis of historical factors and economic advantages.
The most prominent of these groupings are:
Gulf-EU Dialogue: Following the establishment of The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) in 1981, the GCC and the European Union (EU) agreed to convene the Gulf-EU Dialogue. However, this Dialogue was given an official character by the signing of the Bilateral Cooperation Agreement between the GCC and the EU in 1988. Accordingly, negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement began in 1991.
On the basis of the Free Trade Agreement, ministerial and senior official meetings are convened every year in order to discuss political issues and bilateral relations of interest to the two parties. In addition, the GCC and the EU discuss matters pertaining to the development of and follow up on the mutual cooperation between the parties.
The Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD): The notion of the establishment of the Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) was raised by Thailand during the First International Conference of Asian Political Parties, which was held in Manila from 17 to 20 September 2000. However, the idea was formally crystallized during the 34th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Hanoi on 23 June 2001; it is considered the first international Asian entity that aimed at integrating all Asian countries.
Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC): The IOR-ARC was founded in 1997, with its first meeting held in Mauritius from 5 to 7 March 1997; a Charter was adopted that defined the formal framework of the IOR-ARC under the title, ‘Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation’.
The Sultanate was one of the founding members of the IOR-ARC in the late nineties. Its goal was to achieve tangible regional cooperation between the member states through employment of labour, energy and markets.
The IOR-ARC currently includes 21 member countries: Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Seychelles, Comoros, Mauritius, India, Mozambique, Madagascar, Somalia, Kenya, Iran, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Tanzania, South Africa and Indonesia.
The name of the Association, formerly called ‘Indian Ocean Rim Association’, was changed to ‘Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC). Its headquarters is in Mauritius.
The Sultanate was among the first seven states that sought to establish an economic grouping of countries overlooking the Indian Ocean. Additionally, the Sultanate is an important and an active member of the IOR-ARC, as it hosts significant centres of the Association, such as the Fisheries Support Unit (FSU) and Maritime Transport Council (MTC).
Subsequently, Oman will host a tourism resources centre and be involved in meetings and events held by the IOR-ARC. Indeed, the membership of the IOR-ARC is considered as an open gateway to revive the historical links of cooperation and interaction among the Indian Ocean countries.