CAIRO, EGYPT - Oman's venerable ruler, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, who ruled his strategic Gulf emirate — adjacent to Iran — for nearly 50 years, has died after a long illness. The country's royal family chose the late Sultan's cousin, Haitham Bin Tariq, to succeed him, in accordance with his last testament.
Oman's royal family met Saturday, following the death overnight of the late Sultan Qaboos, and appointed his cousin, Haitham Bin Tariq, to succeed him. The appointment was made after top family members and military officials read aloud the last testament of Sultan Qaboos.
A military honor guard fired a ceremonial cannon to honor the late Sultan as his successor presided over the official transition.
Many of the hundreds of Omanis who lined the route of Sultan Qaboos' funeral cortege broke into tears and sobbed as his body was taken to a royal cemetery for burial. Qaboos, who succeeded his father in a bloodless coup in 1970, was the only ruler most Omanis had ever known.
Qaboos, who studied at Britain's famous Sandhurst Military Academy, fought a leftist insurgency when he first came to power, and he then presided over one of the more stable nations in the turbulent region. The late Sultan had no children.
Oman's new sultan, Haitham Bin Tariq, told those gathered to hear his inaugural speech he would follow the path of his predecessor in foreign policy, which he said included "peaceful coexistence between peoples and nations, good neighborly relations, non-interference in the internal affairs of others, respecting the sovereignty of all nations, and cooperation with everyone."
Sultan Qaboos, whose family has governed Oman since 1741, made a point of keeping good relations with both Iran and all of his Gulf neighbors. He refused to take sides during Iran's 8-year conflict with Iraq during the 1980s, and he maintained a neutral stance in the more recent conflict between Qatar and Gulf Cooperation Council neighbors Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Oman played a key role in mediation between the U.S. and Iran during negotiations on the 2015 nuclear accord (JCPOA) between the G-5 countries, plus Germany.
Washington-based Gulf analyst Theodore Karasik tells VOA the "passing of Qaboos is a major moment in the region ... because of the influence the sultan projected, most of the time very quietly." Karasik adds that he expects to see "the same pragmatism" under the new Sultan Haitham.