Oman FM makes rare visit to East Jerusalem’s holy site

A picture taken on February 15, 2018 shows Omani minister responsible for foreign affairs, Yusuf bin Alawi (C) performing prayers inside the cave beneath the Dome of the Rock, during his visit to Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Arab east Jerusalem.  

JERUSALEM, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) — Oman’s Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi paid a rare visit to al-Aqsa mosque compound, a contested holy site in Jerusalem, on Thursday, local media reported.

The Times of Israel newspaper reported that Alawi toured the site in East Jerusalem’s Old City, which Muslims revere as the Noble Sanctuary and Jews revere as the Temple Mount.

The visit followed talks Alawi held with Palestinian National Authority officials in the West Bank, to where he arrived on Tuesday for a three-day official visit.

Visits to the site by Arab leaders are unusual because the site is located in a territory that Israel seized in 1967 Middle East war and annexed shortly later.

Israel usually requires that such visits would be conducted under coordination with its authorities, but a spokesperson for the Israeli foreign ministry said the ministry has no knowledge of the visit and had no immediate comment.

Israel and Oman have no official diplomatic relations, but several official and secret meetings reportedly took place over the past years.

In 2009, former Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, met with Alawi in Qatar, according to Israeli media, and in 2016, Oman sent a diplomatic representative to the funeral of the late Israeli president, Shimon Peres.

Omani Minister for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi center, visiting the Al-Aqsa mosque compound on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, February 15, 2018. (Ahmad GHARABLI/AFP)
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