Is Omani Leader’s Tehran Visit Linked to US-Iran Mediation?

A rare foreign visit by Omani leader Sultan Qaboos bin Said to Iran has raised speculation that he may have a message from the United States, or at least intend to mediate between Tehran and Washington.

al-monitor Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said attends the International Conference on the Global Fight against Terrorism in Tehran, June 25, 2011. Photo by REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi.

Topics covered

us, oman, iran’s regional influence, iran

Aug 26, 2013

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has informed Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman, who began a three-day visit to Iran yesterday [Aug. 25], that his country is seeking to strengthen cooperation with Muscat, regarding it as "highly important for peace and stability in the region." This visit came in tandem with speculations about Oman playing a mediatory role between Iran and the US.

Informed sources in Tehran believe that this visit is "not normal and does not fall under normal protocol." It is Oman’s wish to begin a new and important phase, in which Oman would mediate at a higher level between Iran and the West. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, however, denied what was rumored about an "American message" that Qaboos might be conveying. He then added that his country is "ready to discuss any subject he sets forth."

Sultan Qaboos is the first foreign leader to visit Iran since Rouhani took office. This visit is his second to Iran since the 1979 revolution. Qaboos made his first visit in August 2009. In addition to Rouhani, Qaboos will meet Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Zarif, parliament Speaker Ali Larijani and Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Hashemi Rafsanjani.

During his meeting with Qaboos, Rouhani reiterated that "cooperation between Tehran and Muscat is highly important to restore peace and stability to the region," noting that "Iran is seeking to move forward with this policy through joining efforts with other countries in the region."

Iranian media outlets reported that Rouhani and Qaboos have discussed "important regional and international developments," noting that the former stressed the "remarkable position" of Oman regionally. Rouhani addressed Qaboos by saying,  "Iran wishes to consolidate relations with our brotherly country [Oman] in different sectors, notably that of trade and economy." Qaboos reportedly described Muscat’s relationship with Tehran as "amicable," calling for the "reinforcement of trade and economic relations" between both countries.

The visit to Iran has raised speculations about Qaboos carrying an American message pertaining to re-opening dialogue with Iran in an attempt to settle the nuclear issue, especially since Qaboos rarely pays official visits. Iranian sources noted that Qaboos will learn about Khamenei’s vision in regard to dialogue with the US and the mechanism of cooling tensions between both countries, in addition to Iran’s position toward regional developments that concern the Gulf countries, notably Saudi Arabia.

When Zarif was asked about a potential "American message" carried by Qaboos, he said, "We are not aware that the sultan of Oman will be carrying a particular message for our country. We are, however, ready to discuss the issues he wishes to bring up, in addition to bilateral, regional and international affairs we wish to discuss."

The spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Abbas Arakji, noted that "economic cooperation in the field of energy is the most important subject in talks with Sultan Qaboos." He added that Qaboos will also discuss "regional and international affairs, especially about the situation in Egypt and Syria."

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