Iran’s Zarif heads to Kuwait and Oman

Relations between Iran and the GCC countries have deteriorated because of Tehran’s support for Bashar al-Assad

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif departed Sunday for Kuwait and Oman, on his first visit to Gulf Arab states since Tehran and the West struck a nuclear deal, state media said.

The official IRNA news agency said Zarif would attend an economic meeting in Kuwait and hold talks with officials in the emirate on “bilateral relations, regional and international developments”.

“The foreign minister will also travel to Oman to hold talks on Tehran-Muscat bilateral relations as well as regional and international developments,” the agency added.

Zarif’s visit comes a week after Iran and western powers struck a landmark agreement on the Islamic republic's disputed nuclear program.

The deal was welcomed by the Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab states, which have long been concerned about Shiite Iran’s regional ambitions.

Oman maintains good relations with Tehran, and Sultan Qaboos was the first guest of Iranian President Hassan Rowhani following his inauguration on August 3.

Shortly after his election, Rowhani said he hoped to improve relations with neighboring countries, especially Gulf States.

According to reports, Oman hosted secret talks between Iran and the United States in the lead-up to the six-month accord on its nuclear program.

Oman has also acted as an intermediary between Western countries and Iran in recent years.

The Gulf state's mediation has helped to free U.S. nationals detained in Iran, since Washington and Tehran cut diplomatic ties in the 1980s.

Oman is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Other oil- and gas-rich Sunni Muslim monarchies of the GCC have strained ties with Shiite Iran, which they accuse of trying to meddle in their internal affairs.

Relations between the GCC states and Tehran have deteriorated further because of Iran’s support for President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war.

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