“Oman offers a very positive example for the region on how to transform a social, economic and political vision into reality while addressing the needs of the population,” said Jeffrey D Feltman, US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, in an exclusive interview to Muscat Daily.
“Whereas other leaders in the region have reacted to demonstrations with unconnected actions, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said had a comprehensive view of how he wanted to see the country move forward in a way that met the needs of the Omani people,” he added.
Feltman revealed that much before the protests, His Majesty had outlined a ‘very positive vision of initiatives to meet the political and economic aspirations of Omani people’ to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her January visit to the sultanate. Feltman was a part of the visiting US delegation then.
The senior US official further said that the protests - that took place in Sohar, Salalah and elsewhere in the country a few weeks after Clinton’s visit - have ‘simply accelerated’ some of the reforms and development plans which are part of His Majesty’s vision for Oman and its people. “In our view, it’s one reason why the demonstrations in Oman never attracted the magnitude [of support] that was witnessed elsewhere in the region,” he stressed.
The restraint shown by security forces came in for special mention as well. “Tragically, you did have a couple of deaths [during the protests]. But instead of starting a very dangerous momentum of violence, what happened with these tragic deaths is that the security forces exercised greater restraint to make sure such incidents weren’t repeated. And the right for peaceful protests was thus protected. That’s a model we think would be useful elsewhere,” he said.
Feltman also said the US would welcome Oman’s inputs on the Yemen crisis. “The Omanis are much wiser on Yemen than the Americans because Omanis live next door to Yemen and have been watching the country for many, many years. I would turn entirely to Oman for good ideas about the situation in Yemen,” he said, adding, “The US policy right now is to back the GCC initiative and bring in an inclusive government comprising members of the ruling as well as opposition parties. The important thing is to get the transition started.”