More Links in News & Events

Oman and Abu Dhabi Trip Report

By Jimmy Carter

Our fairly rapid visit to Oman and Abu Dhabi had two basic purposes, to express our thanks to the two leaders and to seek financial assistance for our health program in Africa.

We left home on Friday, 11/20, and flew via Zurich to Oman, arriving in Muscat at midnight the following day. I had long wanted to express my personal appreciation to Sultan Qaboos bin Sultan because of his staunch support for the peace process in 1978 and 1979. He was the only Arab leader in the Gulf region who did not condemn President Sadat and impose economic sanctions against Egypt after we concluded the Camp David Accords and then peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

Later, in December 1979, Sultan Qaboos was our immediate ally in meeting the serious challenge to the region when Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan. We concluded a military agreement (still in effect) that permitted U.S. weaponry to be deployed in Oman. Highly secret at the time, it was from Oman that we sent our preparatory flights into the Desert One site to rescue our hostages being held in Iran.

While in Oman we met with key government and private leaders, visited the university, trade exhibitions, and other sites, and I spoke to an assembly of about 100 leaders regarding the Middle East peace process and then answered questions on this and other subjects. We were impresses with the great economic progress that Oman has made and their apparently fruitful efforts to reduce their dependence on oil revenues by diversifying their economic interests. Oil is now at the low price of about $11.50 per barrel, and Oman has known oil reserves of only 17 years, with much greater supply of natural gas.

Wyche Fowler (former U.S. senator and now ambassador to Saudi Arabia) came over to meet us, described the Gulf situation from the Saudi point of view, and offered to arrange a fund-raising visit to the kingdom sometime in 1999.

We had supper with Sultan Qaboos at the most elaborate and beautiful residence complex we've ever seen and enjoyed American music by a good jazz/swing band and then later (much later!) an excellent concert by the Omani symphony orchestra. Before our personal visit, the Sultan sent us a pledge of $1 million to The Carter Center, with a promise of additional contributions when oil revenues improve.

The next day we visited Abu Dhabi, where we first met with the health minister and his associates, who maintain a 90 percent immunization rate and an infant mortality rate of 8.5/1000 (ours 12/1000). We had lunch with the minister of economics and the chairman of the national bank. They report that Abu Dhabi now depends on oil for only 30 percent of its total revenue, the rest coming from trade, finance, and manufacturing.

That evening we met with Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan and a number of his ministers, and had a delightful discussion about hunting, aging, history, and other matters before a serious sharing of opinion about how best to deal with troubled nations, including Sudan and Iraq. The Shaikh feels very strongly that Arab leaders should lead the efforts to resolve these cries peacefully, with minimal dependence on military action by the United States. He shares the world's anger at Saddam Hussein but is especially distressed by the suffering of the Iraqi people and the prospect of 10,000 deaths if the U.S. launches an attack as planned.

He is looking forward to hosting the upcoming meeting of the seven-member Gulf Cooperative Council, which may be his last time (he will probably be more than 90 years old when it is Abu Dhabi's turn again.) He has broken precedent by inviting both President Nelson Mandela and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to attend.

Shaikh Zayed is one of my favorite people, and I was glad to see him apparently recovered from his recent serious illness. Having already contributed about $6 million to our Guinea worm eradication effort, he promised additional support and asked that we submit a specific request to him.

We then left Abu Dhabi about 1:00 a.m. and returned home via Riyadh and Zurich. In all, it was a productive and enjoyable trip.

Donate Now

Sign Up For Email

Please sign up below for important news about the work of The Carter Center and special event invitations.

Please leave this field empty
Now, we invite you to Get Involved
Back To Top