Most Gulf states have taken sides in the 14-week-old Qatar crisis. However, the Sultanate of Oman has remained characteristically neutral. It has called for all involved parties to negotiate a settlement while lending support to the Kuwaiti emir’s mediatory efforts.
For decades, Oman has had neutral stances on regional issues, refusing to take sides in conflicts with strong ethnic and sectarian undertones. Since the Iran-Iraq War, Muscat’s foreign policy strategy has positioned the sultanate as a diplomatic bridge between other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and their Western allies and the Islamic Republic. Beginning in 2010, Omani diplomats successfully helped the P5+1 and Iran negotiate the historic Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, signed in 2015. In recent years, officials in Muscat have also sought, albeit less successfully, to help resolve the Syrian and Yemeni crises by hosting and promoting talks between different sides in both civil wars.
The current stalemate between the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ) and Qatar represents another geopolitical dilemma for Oman. One of the ways in which the diplomatic row is challenging the sultanate has to do with the future of the GCC, which Muscat has a vested interest in seeing remain a united body. For Oman, maintaining alliances with the other five Arabian monarchies is key, and the longer that the Qatar crisis continues the bleaker become the prospects for resolution. Therefore, Muscat has carefully sought to avoid being seen as taking sides and being directly involved in the mediation.