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Iran’s FM visits Qatar, Oman as indirect talks with US see momentum

Qatar and Oman have maintained communications with Iran and Saudi Arabia, also playing a mediating role between Washington and Tehran.
Oman's Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr bin Hamad bin Hamood Albusaidi (R) meets with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Muscat, on April, 25, 2023. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian arrived in Qatar early on Tuesday, on the first leg of a regional tour that will also take him to Oman.

The Iranian top diplomat said in a tweet upon his arrival to the Qatari capital that his visit aims to strengthen relations with neighboring countries and follow up on previous agreements signed with these nations.

Shortly after landing in Doha, Amir-Abdollahian met with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. The officials discussed the latest developments on the international and regional scenes, as well as the negotiations on a return to the Iran nuclear deal, Iran’s official news agency IRNA reported. The state-run Qatar News Agency also reported the meeting, saying the Iranian and Qatari officials touched on the bilateral relations and ways to enhance them.

Amir-Abdollahian is scheduled to visit Muscat next, in his second trip there since April. Back then, he met with his Omani counterpart and other officials to discuss the status of the Iran nuclear deal talks and the situation in Yemen.

In recent months, Iran has sought to improve its relations with regional countries following a landmark agreement reached in March with Saudi Arabia to restore ties after more than seven years of rupture. The China-brokered agreement coincided with major realignments in the region, including the return of Syria to the Arab fold.

Qatar and Oman have remained on the sidelines of the Saudi-Iranian rivalry in the past years, maintaining balanced relations with both countries. Qatar’s relations with Iran was one of the main reasons that pushed a Saudi-led bloc of nations to cut ties with the small Gulf nation in 2017.

Oman is reportedly mediating indirect negotiations between the United States and Iran on a potential deal for the release of Americans imprisoned in Tehran. Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr Albusaidi told Al-Monitor last week that the two countries are ironing out the details on a deal.

“I can say they are close,” Albusaidi said. “This is probably a question of technicalities.”

Doha, for its part, has also attempted to mediate indirect talks between Washington and Tehran to revive and rejoin the nuclear deal that the former Trump administration abandoned in 2018. 

Under the deal reached in 2015 between Iran, China, Russia, United States, France, Germany, United Kingdom and European Union, the Islamic Republic had agreed to cut back on its nuclear activity in exchange for lifting sanctions.

Negotiations on the revival of the deal have been stalled since last August after Iran made new demands that the International Atomic Energy Agency shuts down its probe into its past nuclear activities.

In a March report, the United Nations nuclear watchdog said particles of uranium enriched at 83.7%, just below the weapons-grade level of 90%, were found at a nuclear facility in Iran. Under the former deal, Iran had agreed to maintain the enrichment levels at 3.67%.

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