The General Assembly paid tribute today to Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who led Oman for nearly half a century and passed away on 10 January at age 79, with Secretary-General António Guterres praising him as a leader who prioritized cooperation and multilateralism, earning the respect of his people and those far beyond.
“Today, we remember and pay homage to the many roads he built — the road of dialogue, the road of understanding, the road of peace,” Mr. Guterres said, noting that Sultan Qaboos led Oman to join the United Nations, the League of Arab States and the Gulf Cooperation Council. With leadership and commitment, he worked to shape Oman as an active, responsible member of the international family, and under his watch, Oman remained largely immune from the tensions of the region.
Indeed, Sultan Qaboos was well regarded for spreading messages of peace, understanding and coexistence far beyond his country’s borders, Mr. Guterres said, noting that Oman has consistently played a critical role in ensuring communication among disputing parties. Within his beloved country, his vision for Oman saw levels of education for women and men rise exponentially — with a manifold increase in schools, hospitals and roads.
Extending his best wishes to Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, who, while grieving the death of his cousin, has taken over the leadership of Oman, Mr. Guterres said he has every hope that Oman’s contributions to regional and international diplomacy will continue. He expressed the United Nations steadfast support for Oman’s continued efforts to promote peace and stability in the region.
General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande (Nigeria) said Sultan Qaboos will be remembered for his fundamental role in the modernization and industrialization of Oman, including the foresight to recognize that education has the potential to lift the whole of society. As he was a progressive leader on climate action, a promoter of religious tolerance and a peacemaker, Mr. Muhammad-Bande expressed hope that Member States will honour Sultan Qaboos by emulating his efforts, which reflect the founding ideals of the United Nations.
Kokou Kpayedo (Togo), speaking for the African States, hailed Sultan Qaboos as an emblematic figure on the global stage, and a visionary deeply committed to advancing his country and the well-being of his people. Noting that Oman ranked highest in the Middle East in the 2019 Human Development Report, he said Sultan Qaboos understood that friendship and cooperation are the highway to success. Having made Oman a bridge between the Arab, Western and African worlds, Sultan Qaboos forged the links between Oman and most African countries, organizing conferences with Horn of Africa countries, and building hospitals and schools around the continent. An artisan of peace, a role in which he staked success on neutrality, the Sultan was a globally renowned mediator, having received the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in 2004.
Noor Qamar Sulaiman (Brunei), speaking for the Asia-Pacific Group, noted Sultan Qaboos’ reign spanned almost five decades, making him the longest-serving Arab leader. In that time, he led his country with wisdom and vision, guiding Oman through difficult challenges and laying the foundations for modernization, developing its infrastructure, education and health-care systems, as well as its institutional frameworks. A lifelong devotion brought about remarkable social and economic progress that transformed Oman into one of the most stable and prosperous countries in the Middle East, while preserving its rich national heritage and culture, she said.
Yashar Aliyev (Azerbaijan), speaking on behalf of the Eastern European States, said Sultan Qaboos paved the way for Oman’s well-being and development. A great leader and genuine statesmen, his lifelong contributions to international affairs and support for dialogue processes in the Middle East were critical to building trust in times of turmoil, he said, recalling the Sultan’s description of Oman’s foreign policy as “defined with clarity, a hand building from within, and a hand offered in goodness, giving, continued participation in the world’s events and development”.
Christine R. Bailey (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of Latin American and Caribbean States, said the region has lost a leader and the father of the Omani renaissance. When he ascended to the throne in 1970, Oman was isolated, had six miles of paved roads, three public schools and minimal medical care. Since then, life expectancy climbed to 77 years from 50 years, literacy is at 96 per cent and Oman’s achievements include highways, public utilities, high-speed Internet and world-class sports and cultural centres. An advocate for gender equality, he leaves behind an enduring legacy in foreign policy, based on moderation and dialogue.
Martin Bille Hermann (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the Western European and other States, elaborated on the Sultan’s approach to building bridges with external partners, which shaped a foreign policy focused on fostering peace and stability. Promoting the voice of reason throughout the Middle East, Sultan Qaboos’ passing is a loss to the region and beyond.
Cherith Norman-Chalet (United States) recalled that when the Sultan ascended to the throne in 1970, Oman, the region and the world were in much different places. His reign spanned nine United States presidents, multiple regional crises and global changes no one could have imagined. Throughout, the hallmarks of his reign were wisdom and vision — virtues he relied upon to steer Oman towards stability and prosperity. “Sultan Qaboos was the embodiment of a modern statesman, demonstrating unflagging commitment to dialogue and to promoting peaceful engagement across the troubled region in which Oman and its neighbours exist,” she said. He was also a great Omani leader who loved his country and his people. The United States mourns with the people of Oman and honours the Sultan’s legacy.
Hassan Abu Obaida (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the Arab States, reflected on the many achievements of the Sultan, including his role in Oman’s renaissance. A symbol of friendship and wisdom, he was a principled man whose loss will be felt across and beyond the region. He strengthened governance and the Arab identity with a view to undoing various conflicts. At the same time, he modernized Oman, which is now characterized by stability, education, economic growth and advocacy for women’s rights.
Mohamed Al Hassan (Oman), thanking delegates for their condolences, said that Sultan Qaboos was the father of his country’s renaissance, who spent 50 years working tirelessly. “He loved his people, and his people returned the love,” he said, adding that his legacy will live on forever. Citing Sultan Haitham, he said “no speech will do enough justice to the deceased and what he has done for his country”. Recalling some of these achievements, he said infrastructure and development efforts have modernized and strengthened Oman, which will continue along the same lines with the same policies that were forged by Sultan Qaboos.
The General Assembly will reconvene at a time and date to be announced.