05/29/2023, 19.41
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Regional diplomacy and security top agenda of Oman Sultan’s first visit to Tehran

Oman recently brokered a prisoners’ swap between Iran and Belgium, renewing its role as an intermediary between the region and the West. During the two-day visit, the two countries inked four memoranda of understanding. Sultan Haitham met with President Raisi and Supreme Leader Khamenei. The latter stressed that the two countries share the vital Strait of Hormuz.

Tehran (AsiaNews) – Regional diplomacy, security issues and new, private sector partnerships were the focus of a two-day visit by the Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said of Oman to Iran, which began yesterday, the first by Oman’s new ruler.

The visit comes two days after Iran and Belgium exchanged prisoners thanks to Omani mediation. For many years, the Sultanate of Oman has been a go-between between Iran and Western countries, which is why the Sultan’s visit to Tehran has been followed with interest in western capitals.

In the Iranian capital, the Omani leader met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Four memoranda of understanding were signed by their respective delegations, aimed at expanding economic and energy cooperation.

“We believe that the expansion of bilateral relations in all fields benefits both sides,” Khamenei said. Thus “Increasing Iran-Oman cooperation is significant because the two countries share the very important Strait of Hormuz waterway”, one of the world’s main maritime routes.

In the joint statement released at the end of the visit, the two sides underlined the role of the private sector in expanding “economic cooperation” and “bilateral relations”. The two sides also talked about “various security, political, economic, and cultural fields to consolidate the foundations of peace and stability in the region.”

In the past few years, Oman has played an important role in the Yemen conflict, and acted as an intermediary for the release and exchange of several foreigners and dual nationals.

On Friday, Iran swapped a Belgian aid worker arrested in 2022 and sentenced to 40 years in prison and 74 lashes on charges of espionage for an Iranian diplomat sentenced to 20 years by a Belgian court in connection with a failed bomb plot.

However, Iran still holds many more prisoners, most of whom for espionage and security offences, although critics accuse the Islamic Republic of using prisoners to extract concessions.

During the Sultan’s visit, other topics were discussed, such as the Iranian nuclear programme and the long-stalled talks over the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with the 5+1 countries, which was scrapped by Trump, as well as efforts to ensure further détente between Iran and Egypt.

Other issues, like Iran’s human rights violations, its sale of weapons and drones to Russia, and the Ukraine war remained in the background.

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