By Abbas Al Lawati
Oman has accepted a $210 million grant from Saudi Arabia to fund two projects at its flagship Arabian Sea port of Duqm, a rare agreement between two countries that often differ on some of the Middle East’s biggest disputes.
The funding, to be provided by the Saudi Development Fund, will finance a 61-million-rial ($158 million) fishing facility and a road costing 20 million rials, state-run Oman News Agency reported Thursday. Oman wants to develop Duqm into a major hub, and is building a 230,000 barrel per day oil refinery there with Kuwait.
Muscat rarely takes handouts. The Gulf Cooperation Council offered it a $10 billion aid package following protests in 2011, but it’s not known how much, if anything, was disbursed. Following reports of a 1-billion-dirham grant by the United Arab Emirates in 2014, Oman’s foreign minister said his country had “never asked for it.”
“This grant comes within the framework of developing economic cooperation between the two countries” and programs to develop the GCC, Omani Finance Minister Darwish Al Balushi said. The Saudi fund also set aside $150 million to finance Omani small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Muscat hosted secret negotiations that led to the 2015 nuclear agreement between world powers and Saudi Arabia’s arch-nemesis Iran. It has also refused to take sides in Riyadh’s war in Yemen and boycott of Qatar.