July 27, 2019 / 9:20 AM / 3 months ago

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

Oman's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah shakes hands with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran, Iran July 27, 2019. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

DUBAI (Reuters) - Oman’s minister responsible for foreign affairs held talks with Iran’s foreign minister on Saturday, Iranian state media reported, as tensions mount in the Gulf after Tehran detained a British-flagged oil tanker.

Oman maintains friendly ties with both the United States and Iran and has previously been a go-between for the two countries, which severed diplomatic relations after the 1979 Iranian revolution.

Washington and Tehran are in a protracted stand-off over Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, and tensions have flared after Iran downed a U.S. drone over the Gulf and the United States said it brought down at least one Iranian drone, which Tehran denied.

Tensions between Iran and Britain also escalated after Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized a British-flagged oil tanker on July 19. That came two weeks after British forces captured an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar, accused of violating sanctions on Syria.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, state television reported, without giving details of the talks.

“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,” state television reported.

Oman’s foreign ministry said on Twitter the two ministers discussed stability and security in the region and freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz, shared by the two countries and which is the only route in and out of the Gulf.

Zarif said on Twitter: “Discussed effects of the U.S.’ #EconomicTerrorism on Iran; bilateral relations, regional developments & security in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman.”

Iran has threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the waterway, where several oil tankers have been attacked, if the United States tries to strangle its economy with sanctions on its vital oil exports.

Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi and Dubai newsroom; Editing by Mark Potter

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