By Arshad Mohammed
MUSCAT May 21 U.S. Secretary of State John
Kerry flew to Oman on Tuesday for Raytheon Co's signing
of an estimated $2.1 billion arms deal and to consult on Syria
and Iran, U.S. officials said.
Oman is expected to sign a letter of intent to purchase a
ground-based air defence system that would help protect against
cruise missile, drone or fighter aircraft attacks, a senior U.S.
State Department official told reporters aboard Kerry's plane.
Part of the sale has been previously disclosed. In October
2011, the U.S. Defense Department notified Congress of a
proposed $1.25 billion sale of Avenger fire units, Stinger
missiles, and Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missiles to Oman.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the
$2.1 billion deal included these elements - which are being
funded with the help of U.S. government financing - as well as
other items that Oman is buying directly from the arms maker.
The official also said terms were still being negotiated and
the value of the sale could change, adding it was unclear if
Kerry would attend the signing expected on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Raytheon spokesman Jonathan Kasle had no immediate comment.
Raytheon Chief Executive Bill Swanson told an earnings call
last month that the company was making "considerable progress"
on a number of foreign arms sales, including a deal to sell a
ground-based air defence system to Oman.
Raytheon generates more of its revenues overseas than any
other large U.S. weapons maker. It has forecast a 20-percent
increase in foreign bookings in 2013.
SYRIA, IRAN ALSO ON AGENDA
Oman sits opposite Iran on the Strait of Hormuz, through
which some 40 percent of the world's sea-borne oil passes, and
is a U.S.-allied Gulf Arab State while also maintaining good
relations with the Shi'ite-ruled Islamic Republic.
Kerry's visit is the first stop on a week-long trip that
will take him to Amman for talks on bringing Syria's warring
parties to a peace conference and to Jerusalem and Ramallah to
discuss reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
Both issues were expected to come up in Kerry's talks with
Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the Arab world's longest-serving
ruler, on Tuesday, said the officials, who spoke to reporters as
Kerry flew to Oman. Kerry headed straight from the airport to
meet the sultan at his main residence, the vast Bait Al Baraka
"It's basically a chance to do a signals check with an
important ally," said a second senior State Department official.
"Oman is not a key player on Syria but, as an important player
in the Gulf, I think it will be good to hear the sultan's views
on the situation in the region writ large."
More than 80,000 people are believed to have died in Syria's
civil war, which began with peaceful protests against President
Bashar al-Assad more than two years ago as popular uprisings
swept long-time authoritarian rulers from power in Tunisia,
Egypt and Libya.
It has since become a civil war fought largely along
sectarian lines between mainly Sunni opposition fighters who
have Gulf Arab and some Western backing and government forces
supported by Shi'ite Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah. Assad also
benefits from diplomatic support and arms sales from Russia.
Kerry on Wednesday will meet in Jordan with senior officials
from mostly Western and Arab states backing Syria's opposition
to discuss how to bring both sides to the negotiating table.
The United States and Russia announced two weeks ago that
they would try to bring the two sides together - possibly in
Geneva in June - for a peace conference that would choose a
But there are a host of unanswered questions, including why
Assad would send representatives to a conference which Western
officials believe must eventually lead to his departure, and who
will represent the opposition, which resists the idea of Assad
having any role in governing Syria, even during a transition.