News ID: 256430
Published: 0159 GMT July 27, 2019

Zarif hosts Omani counterpart amid Persian Gulf tensions

Zarif hosts Omani counterpart amid Persian Gulf tensions

Political Desk

Iran's Foreign Mohammad Javad Zarif hosted his Omani counterpart Yusuf bin Alawi in Tehran on Saturday, his office said, amid mounting tensions in the region between Washington and Tehran.

The talks between Zarif and Bin Alawi centered on the "latest regional and international issues", the Foreign Ministry said in a brief statement. .

“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,” Iranian television said.

Oman has maintained good relations with Iran throughout successive regional crises, allowing it at times to play a key mediating role, including with the United States.

Iran and the US severed diplomatic relations after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Tensions in the Persian Gulf have soared since last year when President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed sanctions on the country.

In response, Iran said in May it would disregard certain limits the deal set on its nuclear program and threatened to take further measures if remaining parties to the deal, especially European nations, did not help it circumvent US sanctions.

Tensions have escalated further in the region with a string of incidents involving tankers and drones.

The United States and Saudi Arabia accused Iran of being behind multiple attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf in June, which Iran denies.

On July 19, a British-flagged tanker was impounded by Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps with its 23 crew aboard in the Strait of Hormuz.

The seizure was seen by London as a tit-for-tat move for British authorities detaining a supertanker off the UK overseas territory of Gibraltar in early July. The British Royal Navy helped impound the Grace 1 that was carrying more than 2 million barrels of Iranian crude.  

But Iran says it detained the British vessel after it collided with an Iranian fishing boat and violated international maritime law.  

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani suggested this week that Iran might release the British-flagged ship if Britain takes similar steps to release the Grace 1.

In past weeks, Iran has shot down a US spy drone.

Oman has called for the release of the UK-flagged Stena Impero and for London and Tehran to resolve their dispute diplomatically.

The meeting between Zarif and bin Alawi is seen as a possible effort at diffusing a diplomatic standoff with the UK. However, neither Oman nor Iran has confirmed that mediation efforts are underway.

In a meeting with Oman’s top diplomat, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani said Iran’s seizure of the British tanker was “in accordance with maritime rules” and for “maintaining navigation security”.

“We believe that all countries must comply with international maritime law in order to maintain security and we do not differentiate between countries in this regard,” Shamkhani said.  

Bin Alawi echoed Shamkhani’s remarks saying all countries must abide by safety regulations, especially in the Strait of Hormuz, and avoid measures that lead to a crisis or harm international trade.

AFP, Reuters and AP contributed to this story.


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