Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed his Omani counterpart Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah to the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin on Tuesday (18 August). The bilateral relationship and the conflicts in the region, from Yemen to Syria, were the main topics on the agenda.
After meeting his Omani counterpart, Foreign Minister Steinmeier praised the Gulf state’s role in international politics, particularly in the Middle East and the Gulf region, describing it as “committed to stability”. He also paid tribute to Oman’s Foreign Minister for his “endeavours to balance the many different and very divergent interests in the region”.
Difficult humanitarian situation in Yemen
The conflicts in Syria and Yemen were a key topic on the agenda of the Foreign Ministers’ talks. Steinmeier said that the “alarming news” of the bombing of the port of Hodeidah “shows we are still a long way from the ceasefire we had hoped for, and obviously also a long way from political solutions”. Both Foreign Ministers expressed their concern that road blockades and the bombing of the port will have made it even more difficult to transport relief supplies to the local population. Steinmeier said the aim remained to lobby partners in the region, at the very least in order to agree a ceasefire.
On Tuesday afternoon, Foreign Minister Steinmeier welcomed the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, to the Federal Foreign Office. Ould Cheikh Ahmed also expressed concern about the humanitarian situation following the attack on Hodeidah, which is an important transport hub, especially for northern Yemen. The situation is particularly difficult, as around 80 per cent of the Yemeni population currently need humanitarian assistance.
It is time to act before Syria collapses
The conflict in Syria, which began well over four years ago and has forced more than ten million people to flee their homes, was the second main topic of the talks between the German and Omani Foreign Ministers. Both Ministers were of the opinion that the agreement with Iran had created new options. “We have certainly noted a new momentum,” Foreign Minister Steinmeier said. This was shown not only by the recent talks between the Russian and US Foreign Ministers, he added, but also by the contacts between Iran and the Gulf states.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier called for action. “I think we can all see it is time to act, even if we do not agree on all issues. It could be too late to act if the Syrian state collapses entirely.” It was thus important, he said, that active endeavours to de‑escalate the conflict now be undertaken. The presidential statement on Syria by the United Nations Security Council, which was adopted by consensus yesterday, and the new proposals by the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, were important in this context, Steinmeier said.
Long-standing and close relations with Oman
The two Foreign Ministers also discussed bilateral relations on Tuesday. Steinmeier had already met his Omani counterpart during his first term as German Foreign Minister. The large number of talks over the years are proof of the close contact between Berlin and Muscat. Steinmeier and bin Alawi bin Abdullah also took the time to look at their two countries’ diplomatic history on Tuesday.
The Director of the Political Archive at the Federal Foreign Office showed them the German-Omani Agreement on Economic and Industrial Cooperation of 25 November 1978, as well as documents on a guest performance by the Bundeswehr’s music corps in 1985 on the fifteenth jubilee of Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier underlined the long-standing relations between Germany and Oman, but added that there was still great potential. He said there were many signs of the close relations between the two countries, for example in business and tourism. “In Oman and in my colleague, the Omani Foreign Minister, we have cooperation partners who are working towards the same goal as we are. I am very happy about that,” Steinmeier said at the end of the visit.