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11 Jan, 2020 00:16

Sultan of Oman Qaboos dies after 50 years in power, leaving key Gulf mediator between US & Iran without heir

Sultan of Oman Qaboos dies after 50 years in power, leaving key Gulf mediator between US & Iran without heir

Oman’s monarch, Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said, has passed away at the age of 79 after a lengthy battle with illness, according to Omani state media.

Located along the highly strategic Strait of Hormuz, which it shares with Iran, Oman under Qaboos maintained better relations with the Islamic Republic than any other Gulf nation.

Throughout his tenure on the throne, the sultan also played a role in mediating dialogue between American and Iranian leaders, often serving as a go-between for the two sides. Just last December, Omani delegations met with top diplomats in both Tehran and Washington in the space of a week, encouraging Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to urge for a reduction in tensions across the Persian Gulf.

Oman was the only member of the Gulf Cooperation Council to refrain in 2015 from joining the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen. In November, the country brokered 'indirect' talks between Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s Houthi rebel movement, looking to resolve the five-year conflict that’s produced one of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. On that front, too, Oman has offered a hand, providing desperately needed aid to Yemenis.Qaboos has ruled the Gulf Arab state since 1970, when he led the bloodless overthrow of Sultan Said bin Taimur – his father – with backing from Britain, formerly a colonial power in Oman. 

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Before he took the throne, Oman had fewer than 10 kilometers of paved road, one hospital and no secondary schools. By 1980, ten years into Qaboos’ rule, the country had some 12,000 kilometers of asphalt roadways, 363 schools and 28 hospitals, according to anthropologist Mandana Limbert.

The ruler struggled with a bout of health problems and was flown to Belgium last month for treatment for colon cancer, after which he was said to be in “stable condition.” Omani authorities offered few additional details about his status after he returned home.

Qaboos had no children and never appointed a successor publicly, leaving some question about the line of succession. A statute passed in 1996, however, tasks the royal family with appointing the next sultan within three days after the throne becomes vacant.

Also on rt.com Oman's top diplomat visits Iran after US trip as Tehran ‘seeks reduction of tensions’ in Gulf

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