Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with Sultan Qaboos of Oman in Muscat. Photo: Netanyahu's official Twitter account

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.

“My wife and I were invited to visit by the ruler of Oman, Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id, after prolonged contacts between the two countries. It is the first official encounter of this level since the year 1996,” Netanyahu announced via Twitter after returning to Tel Aviv.

The visit was announced on Omani state television, which aired video footage of the aging ruler greeting his Israeli counterpart.

Oman, which is known for its discreet diplomacy and unaligned foreign policy position, served as the back-channel between Washington and Tehran in the lead-up to the Iran nuclear accord.

The Trump administration pulled out of that agreement in May and immediately began to ratchet up economic pressure on Tehran.

The sultanate has meanwhile been planning a gas pipeline to neighboring Iran, which is threatened by the reinstatement of American sanctions on Iran’s petroleum sector, slated to go into effect November 5.

By granting Netanyahu the honor of a public meeting, which other Gulf states have thus far avoided despite warming ties, Oman may be seeking to find a way forward in maintaining a delicate balance in its regional relationships.

A Netanyahu spokesperson said the two sides discussed ways to achieve “peace and stability in the Middle East,” adding that “the Prime Minister’s visit is a significant step in implementing the policy outlined by Prime Minister Netanyahu on deepening relations with the states of the region while leveraging Israel’s advantages in security, technology and economic matters.”

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