Israeli officials secretly visit Oman

Israel team visits Gulf

Top Israeli diplomats have made a rare visit to the Persian Gulf state of Oman this week to discuss Middle East peace efforts, said a senior Omani official Wednesday. The official said Yossi Gal, director general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, headed the Israeli team in discussions with their Omani counterparts. He said Oman supports "any effort that would help to resume the peace talks." The meeting was held Sunday, he said, on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. He did not elaborate on any other possible subjects of discussion, such as trade or bilateral relations. An Israeli trade office opened in Muscat in 1996 as well as in other Arab countries after Israel and the Palestinians signed a peace agreement in 1993. The office was closed in October 2000 following the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising, but contacts continue between the two countries despite region-wide disapproval. Oman still hosts the Middle East Desalination Research Center which groups a number of Arab countries and Israel. The center tackles water shortages in the region.