Israeli minister in Oman to push for rail link with Gulf

Israeli minister in Oman to push for rail link with Gulf
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Jerusalem: An Israeli minister has travelled to Oman to propose plans for a railway linking the Gulf to the Mediterranean via the Jewish state at a world transport conference on Wednesday, his office said.

Transport and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, who reportedly arrived in Muscat on Sunday, is to make the pitch at the annual meeting of the International Road Transport Union.

The “Tracks for Regional Peace” initiative calls for a rail link connecting Saudi Arabia with the Mediterranean Sea, according to local media.

The proposal is part of a push by Israel to capitalise on regional developments, particularly anti-Iran sentiments, and to overcome decades of Arab hostility.

The line would extend from Haifa, Israel’s largest port, passing through Jordan before connecting with existing railways in the Gulf.

Last month, Katz said he had presented the plan to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose government had expressed interest in participating in the project.

His trip to Oman comes less than two weeks after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a surprise visit to the Gulf sultanate — the first in more than 20 years by an Israeli premier.

The trip was a coup for Netanyahu, who wants to bolster ties with the Arab world in the face of the perceived expansion of Iranian influence across the region.

It also follows visits late last month by Israel’s culture and communications ministers to the United Arab Emirates.

Israel currently has full diplomatic relations with only two Arab states — Egypt and Jordan.

Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory, however, remains a major obstacle to official recognition by other Arab countries.

Netanyahu and members of US President Donald Trump’s administration argue that a normalisation of Arab-Israeli ties promotes peace with the Palestinians.

The Trump administration is pushing to bridge relations between the Jewish state and Saudi Arabia as it seeks an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement.

Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt welcomed Katz’s visit to Oman, tweeting: “These efforts support our efforts.”