At the beginning of the blessed renaissance which was led by late Sultan Qaboos and when the Sultanate of Oman tried for the membership of the Arab League, some opposed it. This is because they had certain issues with the Sultanate. This was the moment when Abdul Hakeem Khaddam, the then representative of Syria in the Arab League, stood and announced: “Oman is an Arab state, before you became Arab.” It was his reprimand against those who were opposing Sultanate’s membership to the Arab League. This statement still reverberates when we talk about Oman-Syria relationship. Since then, there is no looking back. Whatever has been the political situation and pressures, the relations between the two countries remained intact.
In 2011, when many countries lined up against the Syrian Republic, Oman had a view which proved correct. It saw that the crisis in Syria was an internal issue and others should not intervene in it. Only Syrian people can determine their future course and only they can decide how their internal issues are resolved in a manner which suits them.
Perhaps the recent visit of the Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad to the Sultanate was meant to strengthen the existing relations between the two countries which enjoy long historic and commercial connections. These bilateral ties have strong grounds which are normally missing in the international and regional relations. This link between the two Arab countries is also cemented
by the cultural and civilisational bonding.
If we take an objective look at the history of the bilateral relations between Muscat and Damascus over the decades, we find only brighter sides. Despite all sorts of tussles in the Middle East, the relations between Oman and Syria remained stable. Instead, they used the opportunity for dialogue leading to further consolidation of relations and larger understanding of each other’s interests and concerns. When Iran and Iraq were at war, it was also a testing time for the bilateral relations between Oman and Syria.
The Sultanate has always been supportive at all regional and international forums of the Syrian position demanding the return of the Golan Heights occupied by Israel. Oman stood with Syria and supported its demands particularly for the establishment of peace in the Middle East. The Sultanate has played a pivotal role in many issues of concern to Syria. It has kept itself away from any conflicts in the region. For the purpose, it always preferred to hold dialogue and build parleys in the region.
There is continuation of relations between Oman and Syria, particularly during the current crisis. Oman tried for peaceful settlement of issues and to douse the fire of war by using diplomatic means. It always believed that fair means should be used to settle issues so that enemies do not get benefit from the situation. The aspirations of the people of the countries should not be ignored at any cost and at the same time international alliances should not be allowed to destroy the Syrian army and the stability of the country.
I visited Damascus several times and participated in international fairs in Syria. I have closely noticed that people of Syria feel proud of the position taken by Oman. There has been no ambiguity in policies and positions in terms of its relations with Syria. Oman extends support to Syria and is committed to unity, sovereignty and integrity of the country.