TUE 17 - 7 - 2018
Date: Oct 3, 2017
Source: The Daily Star
Zarif in Oman for talks, ahead of scheduled Qatar trip
DUBAI: Iran’s foreign minister traveled to Oman for a daylong visit Monday with senior officials in the sultanate, which has served as a crucial link between Iran and the U.S. in the past.

Mohammad Javad Zarif held talks with officials in Oman before heading to Doha on his first visit to Qatar since Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut ties with Qatar in June.

The four countries accuse Qatar of backing extremism and fostering ties with their rival Iran, charges that Doha denies.

Oman, a tiny sultanate across the water from Iran, has traditionally had closer ties with Tehran than its neighbors and has maintained relations with Qatar throughout the recent crisis.

Zarif’s talks in Muscat covered “energy, the economy and transit” and the potential “transfer of Iranian gas through the Sultanate of Oman to India,” according to the official Oman News Agency.

Oman and Iran in 2014 agreed to build an underwater pipeline to pump Iranian gas to the Omani port city of Sohar.

Topics of discussion also included the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, and other issues, according to Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency.

Zarif called Oman’s relations with Iran “exemplary” while on his visit.

“We also live in a very difficult neighborhood and we want to engage in continuous consultation,” Zarif told Omani state television.

Oman has served as a mediator between Iran and the West to secure prisoner releases in the past. In 2013, it hosted the secret talks between Iran and the U.S. that later led to the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Zarif is due to travel to Qatar Tuesday, where he is due to meet Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdel-Rahman al-Thani.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi told AFP talks would focus on relations in the Gulf, economic cooperation and the latest developments in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Speaking in Paris last week, the Qatari foreign minister said moves by Qatar’s rivals, including the cutting of trade and transport links, were actually pushing Doha into closer ties with Tehran.

“They accuse Qatar of being close to Iran but with their measure ... they push Qatar toward Iran. They are giving Qatar like a gift to Iran,” he said.

Qatar said in August it was restoring full diplomatic relations with Iran.

Doha along with other Arab Gulf states had pulled its ambassador from Tehran in January 2016 following attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran, spurred by Riyadh’s decision to execute prominent Shiite Islamic scholar Nimr al-Nimr in the kingdom.

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