DUBAI - Oman’s new ruler, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, vowed Saturday to uphold his predecessor Sultan Qaboos bin Said’s foreign policy approach, which steered the Arab country through choppy Persian Gulf waters by balancing close relations with both the United States and Iran. The new ruler, who was Oman’s culture minister, spoke after being named successor to Sultan Qaboos, the Middle East’s longest-ruling monarch whose death was announced Saturday. He died at the age of 79 after years of an undisclosed illness. Sultan Haitham’s message to Omanis and the world was clear: Oman would continue down the path laid by Qaboos as a facilitator of peace.

“We will follow the same line as the late sultan, and the principles that he asserted for the foreign policy of our country, of peaceful coexistence among nations and people, and good neighborly behavior of non-interference in the affairs of others,” he said in his first public remarks as sultan.

The 66-year-old shook hands with family members and top security brass before witnessing ceremonial cannon fire. The Al Said family has ruled Oman since the eighteenth century, and once ruled over Zanzibar too, off the coast of Tanzania.