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Oman and Saudi Arabia —Neighbours and natural partners in progress

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Muscat: The political, diplomatic, and economic relations between Oman and Saudi Arabia have been on the upswing since the visit of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik to the Kingdom in 2021.

Sayyid Badr al Busaidy, Foreign Minister, in a statement, said that both countries have made significant strides since the establishment of the Omani-Saudi Coordination Council, which has played a key role in strengthening cooperation across sectors.

Both countries are working on their future visions, Oman Vision 2040 and Saudi Vision 2030, by exploring and developing joint opportunities in logistics, renewable energy, food security, and water resources.

It may be noted that Saudi Arabia was His Majesty the Sultan's first official international visit in 2021.

The first land crossing between the two nations was opened in December 2021, which coincided with the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the Sultanate of Oman.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman later also announced the establishment of the 'Saudi-Omani Investment Company' with a $5 billion fund to take advantage of investment opportunities in different sectors.

According to the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism, the opening of the Empty Quarter Road reduced the travel time between countries from 18 hours to six, making the Sultanate of Oman the nearest tourist destination for Saudi citizens and residents.

A report issued by the MHT said that before the opening of this new road, travellers to and from Saudi Arabia had to travel via UAE.

With the Empty Quarter easily accessible via the new road, travellers between Saudi Arabia and the Sultanate of Oman can now enjoy desert scenes, especially sand dunes whose heights range between 50 and 250 meters, transverse and linear dunes.

The new road starts from the Ibri roundabout in Al Dhahirah Governorate. It ends at the Batha intersection in Saudi, covering a length of 725 km, passing through the Empty Quarter desert, of which 161 km in the Sultanate of Oman and the rest 564 km in Saudi Arabia.

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MHT said that the total cost of constructing the iconic road was RO1.9 billion, and it is considered an engineering marvel due to the rugged terrain and harsh climate in the Empty Quarter.

Saleh bin Nasser al Jasser, the Saudi Minister of Transport and Logistics, told the Observer last year that the road has been well received, especially the convenience it offers to Haj and Umrah pilgrims and tourism and businesses from both sides.

In the first six months of the opening of the road, nearly half a million tonnes of goods and 400,000 passengers used the new direct link between the two countries.

Eng Said bin Hamoud al Maawali, Minister of Transport, Communications, and Information Technology, told the Observer that the long-term goals between both sides include the possibility of a direct railway link and the short-term goals in the agreements for the quick turnaround of goods via sea and land border crossings.

Oman Tourism Development Company (OMRAN) and Dar Al Arkan, the real estate company in Saudi Arabia and the GCC, have signed an agreement to develop AIDA' a premium, mixed-use project nestled within the masterplan of Yiti Integrated Tourism Development.

The project marks Dar Al Arkan's first entry into Oman to drive the development of the property market and support the growth of Oman's tourism and real-estate sectors in accordance with Oman Vision 2040. The value of the investment in the project from both parties will reach R01.5 billion, and it will be developed in three phases on an area of 3.5 million square meters.

The Kingdom is also a strategic partner in several economic projects in the Sultanate of Oman, including the development of Khazaen City, in addition to projects in the energy sector.

There has been an increase in the volume of trade exchange between the two countries. The volume of Omani non-oil exports to Saudi Arabia in 2022 increased 33.9 per cent to RO922 million ($2.4 billion), compared to about RO650 million ($1.68 billion) in 2021.

Saudi Arabia occupies second place with a rate of 10.5 per cent of the total Omani non-oil exports in 2022. The volume of imports from Saudi Arabia to the Sultanate of Oman in 2022 increased by 12 per cent. Saudi Arabia took second place with 12 per cent of the total merchandise imports recorded in the Sultanate of Oman for 2022.

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