A top Omani diplomat has travelled to Tehran for talks after weeks of volatility over the Strait of Hormuz, including the recent seizure by Iranian authorities of a British-flagged tanker.
Oman, seen as a neutral Gulf Arab country that has acted as a facilitator of talks between the US and Iran in the past, sits across the Strait from Iran, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.
The meeting between Omani foreign affairs minister Yusuf bin Alawi and Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif was seen as a possible bid to diffuse a diplomatic standoff with Britain after the Stena Impero was seized earlier this month.
The Omani diplomat’s visit also comes amid a spike in tensions between Washington and Tehran stemming from President Donald Trump’s decision last year to withdraw the US from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers and impose sweeping sanctions on the country.
After the meeting, the Iranian foreign minister tweeted that they discussed security in the region, bilateral ties and the “effects of the US’ economic terrorism on Iran” – in reference to the sanctions.
Iranian officials have said the Stena Impero with its crew of 23 – none of whom are British nationals – had violated international shipping laws during its transit through the Strait.
But other senior Iranian officials have suggested the ship was seized in retaliation for the British Navy’s role in seizing an Iranian supertanker first, off the coast of Gibraltar over violations of EU sanctions on oil sales to Syria.
The Royal Navy helped impound the Iranian ship that was carrying more than two million barrels of crude on July 4.
Its crew is being held aboard the vessel, as is the crew of the Stena Impero, which is now near the heavily guarded Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani suggested this week that Iran might release the British-flagged ship if the UK takes similar steps to release the Iranian oil tanker.
Also on Saturday, the visiting Omani minister met with Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.
Mr Shamkhani said during the meeting that “Iran’s action was completely lawful and consistent with enforcing nautical regulations”, according to reports.