Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah told Netanyahu that the “people of the Middle East have suffered a lot because they are stuck to the past” when the two men met in Warsaw in February.“This is a new era for the future and for prosperity for every nation,” he told the Israeli leader.Qaboos was one of the Middle East’s longest serving rulers who maintained the country’s neutrality in regional struggles.With his death, the region loses a trusted and seasoned leader who managed to balance ties between two neighbors locked in a regional struggle, Saudi Arabia to the west and Iran to the north, as well as the United States. It was not clear how Oman’s role as mediator would continue as his successor establishes himself.State media did not give a cause of death, but Qaboos had been unwell for years and underwent treatment in Belgium last month.Oman declared three days of official mourning with flags to be flown at half-mast for 40 days for the Western-backed Qaboos, who had ruled since taking over in a bloodless coup in 1970 with the help of former colonial power Britain. On Friday, Omani television broadcast images of the funeral procession driving down Sultan Qaboos street in the capital Muscat amid tight security, as Omanis thronged the palm tree-lined road, some reaching out their hands and others taking pictures.Qaboos had no children and had not publicly appointed a successor. A 1996 statute says the ruling family must choose a successor within three days of the throne becoming vacant.Haitham bin Tariq was chosen by a ruling family council that convened on Saturday. It opened a sealed envelope in which Qaboos had secretly written his recommendation in case the family could not agree, and opted to follow his “wise” guidance.The new sultan had served as minister of national heritage and culture and had been appointed in 2013 by Qaboos to chair the main committee responsible for Oman’s development.“The swift appointment of a successor is positive, as the lack of clarity was a key economic uncertainty,” said Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank chief economist Monica Malik.Haitham takes power as domestic challenges loom large, from strained state finances to high unemployment in the indebted oil producer, and at a time of heightened tension between Iran and both the United States and its ally Saudi Arabia.“The wild card is whether any of Oman’s neighbors might try to pressure the new sultan as he settles into power,” Kristian Coates Ulrichsen of Texas-based Rice University’s Baker Institute told Reuters.Condolences started pouring in for the white-bearded Qaboos.The leaders of Jordan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates praised what they described as his wise rule. Former US president George W. Bush said in a statement that Qaboos had been a stable force in the Middle East.Oman maintains friendly ties with Washington and Tehran and helped mediate secret US-Iran talks in 2013 that led two years later to the international nuclear pact, which Washington quit in 2018.