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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sultan Qaboos of Oman have met in Muscat, marking a major elevation in ties between the discreet Gulf state and Israel. "It is the first official encounter of this level since the year 1996", Netanyahu announced via Twitter after returning to Tel Aviv.

Its foreign minister made a rare visit by an Arab official to the West Bank earlier this year.

Oman's government described Israel as an accepted Middle East state on Saturday, a day after hosting a surprise visit by its prime minister that Washington said could help regional peace efforts. In 1995, a few days after Rabin was assassinated, then-acting prime minister Shimon Peres hosted Omani foreign minister Yusuf Ibn Alawi in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu was accompanied by his wife, Sara, as well as the head of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, the National Security Advisor, and the NSC Maj.

The Israeli delegation flew to Oman on Thursday and returned to Israel on Friday.

Iran on Saturday denounced a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Oman, saying Israel was seeking to sow discord among Islamic countries.

It formed part of "the policy outlined by Prime Minister Netanyahu on deepening relations with the states of the region", it added.




In another sign of warming ties between Israel and Arab states, Israel's judo team is set for the first time to participate at an worldwide competition in the UAE under their national flag.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been stalled for almost a decade and US President Donald Trump's much vaunted peace plan is yet to be released.

Attending the forum, Bahrain's foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa voiced support for Oman over the sultanate's role in trying to secure Israeli-Palestinian peace, while Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the kingdom believes the key to normalising relations with Israel was the peace process.

Israel, along with Saudi Arabia and the UAE welcomed US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, which they considered flawed.

Palestinians have been boycotting the Trump administration since it made a decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem earlier this year.

However, Israel has been making increasingly intense contact with the Gulf Arab states through secret channels, motivated largely by a shared opposition to Iran.


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