MORE than 300 guests joined HRH Princes Charles and HH Sayyid Shihab bin Tariq Al Said for the 40th Anniversary reception of the Anglo Omani Society at Lancaster House London, last night.
Other notable guests included the Minister for Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia Tobias Ellwood, the British Ambassador to Oman Jonathan Wilks, Robert Alston, the Anglo Omani Society chairman, Maqbool Sultan the Omani British Friendship Association Chairman and the MPs Sir Alan Duncan and Kate Hoey.
In a generous speech, reflecting the mood of the evening, Prince Charles said the Anglo Omani Society was "a symbol of friendship of one Britain's warmest and closest relationships." He referred to the original words of an agreement between the UK and Oman in 1800 which said the bond between the two nations should be: "unshook till the end of time" saying: "the bond is very much unshook."
"Nobody embodies this wonderful relationship more than Sultan Qaboos through 45 years of reign, and before, he has been a staunch a friend of the UK as we could ever hope. He has led the near miraculous transformation of Oman from undeveloped state to the peaceful, modern and forward looking society it is today."
He said the relationship is "multifaceted stretching across diplomatic, trading, mutual security, education and armed forces working together in many ways." He spoke of: "the deep personal friendships between Britons and Omanis" and recalled being struck by the number of people he came into contact with who had a connection with Sultanate who "without exception had huge affection for the country. Having visited Oman five times this comes as no surprise the hospitality, generosity and good nature of Omanis is legendary."
Prince Charles said he particularly welcomed the formation of the Anglo Omani Society's New Generation Group which is working with the Princes Trust in Oman. He pointed to work of the Trust, which following his visit in 2013, is now supporting the Public Authority for SME Development (Riyada) in Oman helping to mentor entrepreneurs.
HH Sayyid Shihab bin Tariq Al Said told the audience of his pride in attending the 40th Anniversary of the Society, as he did the 30th. He said the relationship is empowered by exchanges between the countries and pointed to Omani students studying in the UK absorbing its culture. He said Oman is a peaceful tolerant country and hoped it will remain so in the future. His Highness also recalled the original treaty 215 years ago saying "it is still alive and the friendship between the UK and Oman will endure until the end of time."
Anglo-Omani Society Chairman Robert Alston thanked HH Sayyid for representing the Sultan as the principle Omani guest and said the Society is highly indebted to Sultan Qaboos its Patron.
"The Society has come a long way in the last 10 years. I must single out His Majesty's extraordinarily generous gift to the society which enabled the purchase of 34 Sackville Street as a platform to grow and expand our activities. We are conscious we must use it to the benefit of Oman and benefit of the relationship between the two countries. I must also mention the creation of the New Generation Group to act as a vehicle to strengthen ties between younger generations of Britons and Omanis. It is now well established and provides a firm foundation for the society's future."
Tobias Ellwood told the audience how Oman had flourished from a country with a population of one million 40 years ago to four times that number today with half aged under 25. He also pointed to the UN Development Programme which credits the Sultan for having achieved the highest rate of development of any country in the world in the last 45 years:
"Over that period this society has played a key role in promoting the people to people links between our two countries. The bond between the countries has been built on friendship and trust. It is a privilege to play a part in continuing to strengthen our bilateral relationship."
"Our Royal Family, arguably uniquely, has a long commitment to developing deep understanding, friendship and trust and furthering UK interests and our place in world reflected in Prince Charles' presence tonight."
Mr Ellwood, too, welcomed the creation of the New Generation Group saying they are "the bright, engaging young people committed to the future success of the relationship of our countries". He said the Government, "would play its full part in supporting the Anglo Omani Society."