Iranian Diplomat in Oman for ‘Strategic Consultations’ Amid Reports of Israel Normalization Talks

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by Ilya Tsukanov

On Sunday, a diplomatic source told the Jerusalem Post that Oman and Indonesia were on track to establishing diplomatic ties with Israel in the coming weeks, possibly before Inauguration Day on 20 January.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Abbas Araqchi arrived in Muscat on Monday for talks with Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr bin Hamad bin Hamood Al Busaidi, Tasnim has reported.

During the talks, the Iranian diplomat was said to have emphasized the importance of Oman in Iran’s foreign policy agenda, and praised Muscat for its ‘balanced role’ in regional and international affairs.

Sayyid Badr, in turn, was said to have called for increased economic and trade cooperation between the two countries, and pointed to the importance of negotiations on regional issues for ‘reaching more understanding’ in light of a changing global environment.

The trip took place under the auspices of the 7th Iran-Oman Joint Strategic Consultative Committee, a joint entity aimed at promoting negotiation, decision-making and creating roadmaps for the further strengthening of relations between the two countries. The previous meeting of the Committee took place in Tehran in December 2018.

Oman-Israel Normalization?

No further details about the diplomatic visit have been provided. The trip comes just a day after the Jerusalem Post reported, citing an unnamed diplomatic source, that Oman may join the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco in normalizing ties with Israel.

The newspaper pointed to a planned trip by US Vice President Mike Pence to Israel in January, with Oman and Indonesia said to be the two Muslim countries in which talks on normalization have advanced recently. JP’s diplomatic source suggested normalization could take place before Inauguration Day on 20 January, when President Trump is expected to leave office if he fails to prove his election fraud claims.

Oman expressed support for the Israel-Morocco normalization agreement which was announced on 10 December, with the Foreign Ministry saying the US-brokered deal would “further endeavor to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.” The kingdom offered similar praise for the Abraham Accords signed between Israel, Bahrain and the UAE in September.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, a senior advisor on international affairs to Iran’s parliament speaker, blasted Morocco over the normalization deal, accusing the country of “stabbing the Palestinian resistance in the back.” Iranian officials expressed similar criticisms of the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan over their respective normalization deals with Tel Aviv, accusing them of “betraying” Palestinians and being bribed by lucrative US weapons contracts and, in Sudan’s case, by promises of removal from the State Sponsor of Terror listing.

Tehran and Muscat enjoy a special relationship, with the sultanate serving as Iran’s closest ally in the Persian Gulf region despite also maintaining friendly ties with the US. The two countries share a sea border along the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane, through which as much as one third of the world’s global seaborne oil is shipped. The Obama administration used Oman as an important back channel to negotiate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani later praising Muscat for its “critical role in getting [the nuclear] talks off the ground.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman in 2018 and 2019 for talks with Sultan Qaboos bin Said (who passed away in January 2020). Iran blasted the controversial visits, accusing Tel Aviv of trying to create a rift between the Muslim nations and of attempting to “cover up its 70-year-long occupation of Palestine.” Netanyahu later responded to the latter claims, calling “occupation” “baloney” and saying that “power is the most important [component] of foreign policy.” During the prime minister’s second visit, Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi indicated in no uncertain terms that the Gulf state would not normalize ties with Israel until the foundation of a sovereign Palestinian state.

Sputnik

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