There is a touch of déjà vu, particularly when looking round the room. I seem to have come across so many of you during previous visits to Oman, over what is probably now the past 35 years. So many of you right here have contributed so much to the Anglo-Omani relations, in a multitude of different ways.
The society, above all is a symbol of the friendship between our two countries, one of Britain’s warmest and closest relationships. As many of you know, the agreement signed between Oman and Britain in 1800 said that the bond between us should be ‘unshook till the end of time.’ I hope that dreadful point is not upon us, but after 216 years I should say the bond is very much ‘unshook’.
Nobody embodies this wonderful relationship more than His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said. Through the forty five years of his reign, and before, he has been as staunch a friend of the United Kingdom as we could ever hope. He has also led the near miraculous transformation of Oman from an undeveloped state to the peaceful, modern and forward looking society it is today. As so many others in this country, I shared the great joy of the Omani people when His Majesty returned to His Sultanate in March last year.
Ladies and Gentleman, I am delighted to know that the Omani/British expedition which has crossed the Empty Quarter by camel reached its final destination of Doha today. They managed to time it just right for today and of course as many of you know they followed the route taken by a group of Omanis and Bertram Thomas in 1931. Yet another example of our two countries working together – even the one member of the modern day team who is a Saudi citizen is a descendent of the Omani Sheikh Salih bin Kalut, a member of the 1930 party! I offer them all my heartiest congratulations.
Our relationship is multi-faceted and on so many levels: diplomatic, trade, investment, mutual security and education. Our armed forces have been working together over many decades and still have the closest of links. As important is the network of deep personal friendships between so many Omanis and Britons. You would be amazed at how often I meet people here with a connection to the Sultanate. Without exception, they have huge affection for the country. I have visited Oman five times and this comes as no surprise. The hospitality, generosity and good nature of the Omanis is legendry and friendships are formed there for life.
This society thrives today because of the extraordinarily generous support of His Majesty. It does invaluable work supporting the cultural and educational relationships. I particularly welcome the creation five years ago of its New Generation Group, to ensure that bonds of friendship will endure.
I hope that in my own small way I will be able to contribute to the relationship through the work of two of my charities. When I visited Oman in 2013 His Majesty introduced me to Dr Ali Al Suneidi, the Minister of Commerce and Industry, and during some very long car journeys we discussed how I might help the then newly-established Public Authority for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises Development. In 2014 my Prince’s Trust International worked with PASMED to create a business mentorship programme and develop training sessions for mentors and mentees, delivered by local training providers. They are now exploring with the New Generation Group other projects that could help the young people of Oman to successfully enter the labour market. The Group are also in talks with my charity Mosaic to explore what they might do to foster entrepreneurship in Oman through our expert charity initiative which is also proving successful in Jordan.
So ladies and gentleman, I can only conclude by offering my warmest congratulations to the Anglo-Omani Society. None of its achievements would have been possible without huge efforts by so many people over the years, motivated only by the determination to see this unique relationship made even stronger. I wish you ever possible success in the decades to come.