Senior Minister of State (SMS) for Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli visited Oman from 30 March to 3 April 2015 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Oman. 

         While in Muscat, SMS Masagos called on Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers HH Sayyid Fahd Bin Mahmoud Al Said.  They welcomed the positive progress in bilateral ties, particularly the launch of direct flights by Oman Air between Singapore and Muscat.  SMS Masagos also met Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs HE Yousuf Bin Alawi, and was hosted to lunch by Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs HE Sayyid Badr Bin Hamad Al Busaidi.  They reaffirmed the strong bilateral ties between Singapore and Oman, and exchanged views on regional developments.  SMS Masagos sought Oman’s assistance, should it be necessary, to assist Singaporeans to leave Yemen. 

        In addition, during SMS Masagos’ meeting with Minister Responsible for Financial Affairs HE Darwish Bin Ismaeel Al Balushi, SMS Masagos sought Oman’s continued support for the timely implementation of the Gulf Cooperation Council-Singapore Free Trade Agreement.  Minister Darwish expressed Oman’s interest to learn from Singapore’s successful economic development experience.  Separately, in SMS Masagos’ meeting with Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries HE Dr Fuad Bin Jaafar Al Sajwani, they agreed to explore cooperation in research and development and commercial opportunities in aquaculture and fisheries.

         SMS Masagos was the Guest-of-Honour with Secretary-General Sayyid Badr at a reception to celebrate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations.  The full text of his speech at the reception is appended.

         Prior to Muscat, SMS Masagos also visited the Duqm Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and was hosted by CEO of Duqm SEZ Authority Lim Chee Khian.  A strategic project of Oman, the Duqm SEZ is intended to boost Oman’s economic diversification efforts.  SMS Masagos was updated on Duqm SEZ’s latest progress and also made site visits to major developments, such as the Port of Duqm, Oman Drydock and a public housing project.  SMS Masagos welcomed the steady progress made in Duqm SEZ’s development and noted potential opportunities for Singapore companies in Duqm SEZ.  

        SMS Masagos was accompanied by officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Enterprise Singapore and Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore.

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MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

SINGAPORE

3 APRIL 2015

Speech by Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the Sultanate of Oman and the Republic of Singapore on 2 April 2015 in Muscat, Oman

Your Excellency Sayyid Badr Bin Hamad Bin Hamood Al Busaidi, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Sultanate of Oman

Distinguished Guests

Fellow Singaporeans

Ladies and Gentlemen

               I visited Oman last year and I told myself then that I have to come back to see more of this beautiful country and its cultured people.  I am thus delighted to be in Oman again and to meet good friends such as His Excellency Sayyid Badr.  Tonight we are gathered here to celebrate a very special occasion, which is the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Oman.  This time around, International Enterprise Singapore, Infocomm Development Authority and Sembcorp have joined me here today.   

2             Our friendship has come a long way.  As countries with small populations and a common maritime heritage, we face similar challenges and share similar concerns in an increasingly globalised world.  This convergence of interests has led to a strong bilateral relationship between our two countries.  This relationship did not grow overnight.  It has been carefully nurtured over the past three decades.  In addition to exchanges of visits at the highest levels, our officials meet regularly to share their experiences and best practices with each other.  Education, public sector training, port management and economic planning are some examples of the areas in which we have collaborated closely for mutual benefit.  The Singapore-Oman Joint Committee and Singapore-Oman Bilateral Consultations have also been vital in bringing officials from both sides together annually to discuss matters of mutual concern as well as explore new areas where we can work together. 

3             The close relationship between Singapore and Oman has also been bolstered by our growing economic ties.  Bilateral trade between Singapore and Oman has seen a 50% increase over the past 10 years to more than US$600 million in 2014.  There is scope for greater growth, especially after the coming into force of the Free Trade Agreement between the Gulf Cooperation Council and Singapore (GSFTA).  In fact, Oman was the first GCC country to ratify the agreement in 2009.  We look forward to the smooth implementation of the GSFTA, which will help to strengthen our trade links. 

4             The investment links between our countries are also intensifying.  Oman is Singapore’s 4th largest investor from the Middle East, with several Omani companies currently based in Singapore such as Bank Muscat and Oman Trading International.  Singaporean companies are also increasingly active in Oman and involved in projects worth more than US$2.38 billion in the info communications, aquaculture and desalination sectors, amongst others.    

5             As Oman continues to pursue its ambitious economic development plans, there will be more opportunities for private sector to private sector cooperation.  I have just visited the Duqm Special Economic Zone.  There, I was impressed by Oman’s efforts to build one of the largest industrial and commercial hubs in the world.  Both the Oman Drydock and the Duqm airport are operational.  Soon, container operations will begin in Duqm Port.  Together with the new roads and a railway network which is scheduled to be ready in 2019, Duqm will be a safe and protected gateway to Oman and the GCC hinterland.  Duqm is envisioned to become a global model for sustainable urban planning, a connector between Europe, Asia and Africa.   The areas of growth to diversify Oman’s economy in the fisheries, logistics and tourism sectors are all set to lift-off in Duqm.  I will encourage Singapore companies to explore opportunities in Duqm. 

6             Our people to people linkages are also growing and the start of direct flights between Singapore and Oman by Oman Air will enhance these linkages significantly.  I was happy to experience the warm hospitality of Oman Air on its inaugural flight from Singapore to Muscat.  It was a smooth flight and I enjoyed it.  More importantly, these direct flights will encourage tourism between our two countries and beyond.  From 2008 to 2015, Omani tourist arrivals in Singapore have more than doubled.  We hope to receive more Omani tourists in Singapore, and I am sure that more Singaporeans will want to experience for themselves Oman’s natural beauty, history and culture.  Already, Singaporeans know something about Oman through the historic journey of the Jewel of Muscat and redevelopment of Muscat Street in our Arab Street heritage area.  For some Singaporeans, Oman has become a second home.  As “Ambassadors” of Singapore, you have played an important role in raising awareness and deepening the people-to-people relations between our two countries, each in your own way.  I would like to thank you for your efforts and I hope the Singapore community in Oman will continue to grow. 

7             2015 also marks Singapore’s 50th year as an independent state.  The year will also be etched into our collective memory with the passing last week of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, our founding Prime Minister.  Mr Lee devoted his life to build a successful Singapore and we in Singapore are enjoying the fruits of his labours.  Mr Lee was also an international statesman, who firmly believed that it was important for Singapore, as a small nation, to have friends all over the world for us to succeed.  Our friendship with Oman is a testament to this principle.  We will miss Mr Lee but his legacy lives on in Singapore.   

Excellencies,

8             Tonight is a special night for Singapore and Oman.  I am confident that the ties that bind us together will grow and we will scale greater heights in the years to come.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank Secretary General Sayyid Badr and his staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Oman for the kind hospitality shown to me and my delegation, and for their commitment to working with us to foster stronger relations between our two countries. 

9             It also gives me great pleasure to convey our best wishes to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al Said, and for the continued peace and prosperity of the people of Oman.  We rejoice with the people of Oman on the recent return of His Majesty and wish him long life and good health.  Thank you.

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