Oman's top diplomat in Iran for talks amid mounting Gulf tensions

Yusuf bin Alawi and Jawad Zarif to discuss bilateral relations and latest developments in region, Iran state TV says.

    The two foreign ministers were expected to discuss regional developments including the issue of the seized tankers [Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA via Reuters]
    The two foreign ministers were expected to discuss regional developments including the issue of the seized tankers [Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA via Reuters]

    The foreign minister of Oman has arrived in Tehran for talks with Iranian officials, in a visit that comes amid mounting tensions in the Gulf between the United States and Iran.

    Iran's state television said on Saturday that Yusuf bin Alawi would meet his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and other officials to discuss the latest developments in the region.

    "The visit was conducted in the framework of bilateral relations and continuous consultations of the two countries with the aim of exchanging views on recent regional developments, bilateral relations ... and international issues," it added.

    Friction has been rising since Washington unilaterally withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and reimposed punishing sanctions on Tehran.

    Oman maintains friendly ties with both the US and Iran and has previously been a go-between for the two countries, which severed diplomatic relations after the 1979 Iranian revolution. It was also the country where Iran and the US held secret talks that eventually led to the brokering and signing of the landmark nuclear deal four years ago.

    Washington and Tehran are in a protracted standoff over Iran's nuclear and missile programmes, and tensions have flared after Iran downed a US drone over the Gulf and the US said it brought down at least one Iranian drone, which Tehran denied.

    Oil tankers

    In a statement on Sunday, the Omani foreign ministry urged Iran to release the British-flagged Stena Impero oil tanker, which Tehran captured in the Strait of Hormuz in a move that came nearly two weeks after London seized an Iranian-flagged tanker off Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on Spain's southern coast.

    Reporting from Tehran, Al Jazeera's Zein Basravi said the oil tankers were expected to be on the agenda of the talks between the Iranian and Omani foreign ministers.

    "They'll be discussing ways of trying to de-escalate and resolve the issue," Basravi said.

    The Omani official's visit comes as the UK announced it would send a military escort along with commercial ships to protect them during their naval passage through the waterways of the Strait of Hormuz.

    "Iran is expected to give the Omani foreign minister a very warm welcome, but they'll also be keen to demonstrate to their ally that they will continue to put on a very strong front when it comes with dealing with pressure from the US and UK," Basravi said.

    Last week, in a letter to the United Nations Security Council, Britain said the tanker was approached by Iranian forces in Omani territorial waters where it was exercising its lawful right of passage, and that the action "constitutes illegal interference".

    In its statement on Sunday, the Omani foreign ministry did not comment on the ship's position but called on Iran and Britain to use diplomacy to resolve the situation.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies