Belgium thanks Oman for helping to free aid worker from Iranian jail

Belgian Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib visited the Omani capital Muscat on Friday to thank Omani authorities for facilitating the deal with Iran that freed Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele. Oman's Foreign minister Sayyid Badr Albusaidi explained Oman's role in the negotiations.

Lahbib thanked the Omani Transport and Foreign ministers for their country's support in freeing Vandecasteele and three other European citizens imprisoned in Iran. Oman's territory acted as a neutral zone in the exchange between the Iranian hostages and convicted Iranian terrorist Assadollah Assadi. 

Albusaidi described Oman's contribution as "facilitation". "We try to build understanding through direct engagements and dialogue and trying to understand the perspectives of each country," he said. "We have a very good and positive and trustworthy relationship with all of our neighbours. We don't have any disagreements. We have friendships and mutual trust. I think these are elemental ingredients if you try to embark on any kind of negotiations."

The relationship between Belgium and Oman is "growing strongly" and "very warm," said Albusaidi. "We are friends before everything else. We have common causes for peace, for harmony, for understanding, and I think this is part and parcel of the work that Oman does." The close relationship is partly due to good contacts between Belgium's King Philippe and Oman's Sultan Haïtham bin Tarik.

Lahbib described Iran's role in the prisoner swap as "very important". "The deal could not be done in Brussels or Tehran. We needed a neutral place. Oman offered its territory. It is Iran's small neighbour and its diplomatic partner. Oman gets along with both the Western world and Iran. Its credo is that it is the friend of all and the enemy of none. Oman facilitated and mediated in the hostage deal. We are very grateful to the country for that."

Lahbib and Albusaidi discussed how Oman could continue to play a role in the West's negotiations with Iran. "We are against any arbitrary detention, so we talked about how he sees Iran evolving both internally and internationally," Lahbib explained. "We also had a conversation about how to bring Iran back to the table to talk about a nuclear deal."



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