Atheer – Oman History
Written by Nasr Al Busaidi:
On Sunday the 18th of December 1988 Oman Daily published Bahraini newspaper Akhbar Al Khaleej’s interview with His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said. Akhbar Al Khaleej held the interview with His Majesty to talk about a number of points of interest, not only to the Sultanate, but also to the Arab region as a whole.
Interviewer: Your Majesty, some people accuse Oman of being a state that deliberately handles matters the hard way with regard to GCC issues. What is your Majesty’s opinion?
His Majesty: We stand by the interests of the GCC States, yet we have our own considerations. Although these are believed to be unnecessary by some people, we see that certain national interests must be considered so that there is no opportunity for dominance by the powerful over the weak. When circumstances changed to parity among our countries on many political and economic issues, we became more flexible. Accordingly, we have agreed to everything that we have been asked to do. We have no reservations except on rare issues of cooperation, however our reservation is never final.
We believe that equality of opportunities must include everyone, so as not to harm any party. Our sister countries have ultimately appreciated our point of view. Above all, we are a member of a strong cooperation council, benefiting from it and its power as a bloc, protecting and pushing forward the interests of the people of the region.
Interviewer: Your Majesty, do you think that the GCC can become a reputable global power in the same way that the European Community is now?
His Majesty: The Council now represents a global power from an economic standpoint. We will eventually transform our cooperation into something similar to the European Common Market, bearing in mind that even in the European market there are problems arising from the conflicting national interests of each country.
We will eventually become a common Gulf market. What is important to us is to ensure that the powerful does not dominate the weak, and when there exists parity among the issues raised, there will be no harm from approval thereon. We want to become a power and to benefit from our bloc, but at the same time we, the GCC countries, do not want to rush to agree on issues that we later regret, or find that we have approved the issues under the condition of inequality.
Interviewer: Your Majesty, we shall move to another question. Do you think that the Iran-Iraq War has ended?
His Majesty: Officially, the war has ended and that is something for which we are glad. However, until a peace agreement is concluded and UN Security Council Resolution 598 is implemented, there is still the risk of the war potentially reigniting and hence there is a sense of caution about it. This caution will only be dispelled once forces from both sides withdraw to their international borders. We sincerely ask Allah to remove this distress and to return to the region an atmosphere of the harmony.
Interviewer: Some people speak a lot about your position towards the Iranian-Iraqi war. What do you have to say about that?
His Majesty: We were against this war, we did not want it, but we were trying through our own ways to end it. The door between ourselves and Iran has been open and we avoided entering into any form of disagreement that may have lead to tension, as we are convinced that through good relations with Iran we can help extinguish the flames of war. We have succeeded in this and had no purpose in this endeavor, except to use our connections with both the Iranian and the Iraqi sides so to help foster relations between them.
We did face some military hazards however. We asked the Omani navy to be patient. There were ships escaping from Iranian artillery fire into our territorial waters, with Iranian troops following them. We were careful and wise in handling matters during this difficult period as we did not want the situation to become worse. The Omani navy observed maximum self-restraint.
Interviewer: Your Majesty, following this war, how will the relationship between the Gulf and Iran be and do we have to take any step towards Tehran now?
His Majesty: In the Iraqi-Iranian agreement, Article 2 encourages the Gulf States to cooperate. I think that if the two sides can reach a peace agreement, there must be good relations between Iran and the other countries of the region. Iran is a neighboring country, and that cannot be ignored. What is important for us is that peace between Iraq and Iran moves from cessation of hostilities to full peace. We, the countries of the GCC, must then move towards establishing relations with Iran so that any regional tensions disappear.
Interviewer: Your Majesty, is it right that your recognition of the State of Palestine has been delayed?
His Majesty: I have declared our support for the establishment of the Palestinian State and we declared this recognition directly. The issue is limited to the Palestinian cause and we do not need to defend our view regarding it, since we stand by the cause and by any solution agreed upon by our sister countries. We were pleased that the Palestinian uprising in the occupied territories yielded the results that we have always been calling for. I said in a speech at the United Nations in 1983, as well as in another speech in London, that without the support of the Palestinian cause, the Palestinian revolution will always be fought by the forces who are described as being terrorists. The Palestinian cause has been able to impose its existence, as illustrated when US Secretary of State George Shultz refused to grant Mr. Yasser Arafat permission to enter the United States. As a result the whole world’s eyes were on Geneva to listen to Mr. Arafat. This served the Palestinian cause, strengthened now by the internal uprising, which I can only salute and respect. I told the Palestinian brethren who visited me recently that they are on the right track to proving to the world that despite the accusations, they don’t embrace terrorism.
Interviewer: Your Majesty, let us move to another subject. What about the economic situation of the Sultanate? Do you think that the decline of oil will last long, or is it merely a temporary decline?
His Majesty: Our economic situation is the same as that of other countries. There is a decline in income, however this has not affected the main expenditure of the state. We have tried not to influence matters pertaining to citizens’ every day lives. We even kept the gains through rationalising public expenditure. But due to decreased income, some projects have been delayed and will be completed over the course of a longer period. This decline has been both positive and negative and we are pleased that the decline in income has come after the completion of our infrastructure, such as roads and service projects. We accelerated the completion of our infrastructure, finishing it within the space of five years, because we wanted it to be ready in time for our citizens by the fifteenth national day.
The negative aspects associated with the decline in income are only temporary and we will deal with them by making adaptations to the volume of income and its expenditure. We believe that the rationalisation of expenditure imposed by the decline in income has achieved the idea of protecting the state system from weakness. Even if revenue within the coming years was to improve, we will not practice unplanned spending. Our spending will be limited and we will try to build up a state reserve. The reports suggest that the decline in oil income will be temporary, however as previously stated, we have managed our situation in such a way that our spending will be able to remain consistent with our current revenue. In this regard we have delayed a number of projects that are of secondary importance, however we have maintained the more important ones, specifically those related to the daily needs of our citizens.
Interviewer: Your Majesty, do you think that Oman can serve as a tourist destination?
His Majesty: The type of tourism as practiced by certain countries whose income relies on tourists, will not be acceptable to us. The nature of our society is different to that of other societies and hence we will not rely on tourism to the extent that we use our people as a form of amusement for tourists, as is happening in some countries.
Our people will not entertain tourists by dancing for them. I oppose this. At the same time however, we should encourage internal tourism and tourism from the Gulf, due to its importance. We have now established facilities to accommodate this.
Written by Nasser Abu Awn – Revised by Dr. Mosataf Abdulghani, Mr. Abdulrazeq Al Rabee’i – Second Edition 2015 A.D – Al Sabla Digital Solutions L.L.C (Atheer), Kounouz Al Ma’refa Publishers