Iran's Rouhani on whistle-stop Gulf tour

Iran's Rouhani on whistle-stop Gulf tour
Iranian President Rouhani will visit Oman and Kuwait both in one day in an attempt to build diplomatic bridges.
2 min read
14 February, 2017
President Rouhani is on a one day mission to Oman and Kuwait

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will visit both Oman and Kuwait on Wednesday, as part of efforts to thaw relations with Gulf states.

Rouhani is to land in Muscat on Wednesday morning for talks with Oman Sultan Qaboos bin Said, while his delegation will meet with Omani counterparts, reports Iranian Press TV.

The president then jets off to Kuwait in the afternoon for a meeting with Kuwaiti Prime Minister Jaber al-Mubarak al-Hamad al-Sabah and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Hamad al-Sabah.

The whirlwind tour is a follow up to Sheikh Sabah’s visit to Tehran in January, when he delivered a conciliatory message.

"Gulf states have a true desire that relations with Iran are normal and based on international law," said Sheikh Sabah, as he called for a "normalisation of ties and opening dialogue".

Iran’s diplomatic relations with the Gulf states are tense. Saudi Arabia broke off all official contact with Iran in January 2016 when a crowd stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran and set it ablaze. Protesters were angry at the state-sanctioned execution of a Shia Saudi cleric.

Relations were already simmering, as Saudi Arabia frequently accuses Iran of using sectarianism to interfere in Arab countries and build its own sphere of influence in the Middle East. Iran denies the accusations.

But Oman has strong ties with Iran. The sultanate is the only one of the six Gulf states not part of the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen. It helped bring about the negotiations for the July 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and major world powers, when it hosted secret talks between Iranian and US representatives. Rouhani last visited Muscat in March 2014, while Sultan Qaboos visited Tehran in August 2013.

Kuwait, which has a large Shia minority, has sought to keep up good relations with Iran and the emir visited Tehran in June 2014. Rouhani has previously stated Kuwait was among several countries to offer to mediate in Iran's ongoing hostility with Saudi Arabia.