Oman’s new sultan, former culture minister Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, has vowed to uphold his predecessor’s approach as regional peacemaker after being named as the new ruler of the Gulf Arab country.
Haitham made the vow after being named as the successor to Sultan Qaboos Al Said, the region’s longest-ruling monarch, who died at the age of 79 after a long battle with colon cancer. Since January 10, Oman has been in three days of mourning.
Sultan Qaboos has no children and has not publicly designated an heir. Under Oman’s succession laws, the Royal Family Council is required to meet within three days to designate a successor.
Haitham is Qaboos’s cousin and the Al Said family has ruled Oman since the eighteenth century.
Who was Sultan Qaboos?
The Middle East’s longest-ruling monarch took charge after overthrowing his father in 1970, supported by former colonial power Britain.
Qaboos is renowned for his diplomatic balancing as he often served as a facilitator between conflicted parties, including Iran and the United States – most notably in 2012 – 2013 to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.
Sultan Qaboos shaped Oman’s policy of non-interference by refusing to join the Saudi-led coalition at war in Yemen in 2015. He also did not join a Saudi and Emirati-led boycott of neighboring Qatar in 2017 and maintained relations with both Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Qaboos fell ill and died from colon cancer on January 10, after years of undergoing treatment in Germany. The sultan was buried before nightfall, following the Islamic burial tradition.
World leaders pay tribute
Tributes came in from across the world after the news of Sultan Qaboos’s death became public.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that he was “deeply saddened” by the death of Qaboos. “He was an exceptionally wise and respected leader who will be missed enormously. I had the pleasure of meeting His Majesty Sultan Qaboos and was struck by his commitment to peace and understanding between nations and between faiths.”
Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted in Arabic: “We offer our dear neighbor Oman our condolences … [and] we congratulate it [the council] for its selection of His Majesty Haitham bin Tariq as sultan, hoping our relations grow as they have before and that the future draws inspiration from the past.”
Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said Qaboos was a great leader, characterized by wisdom, moderation and long-term vision. Qatar has ordered a three-day mourning period.