The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is to help seal a $2.1 billion defense deal during his visit to Oman, where he is due to arrive today, officials said.
One of the main focuses of Kerry's trip to Muscat is to expedite a letter of intent between Oman and the U.S. manufacturer Raytheon, with a view to a final contract being agreed over the purchase of an air defense system.
“In January the Omanis made a decision to buy a ground-based air defense system produced by Raytheon... something that the secretary advocated for when he was in the Senate,” a senior State Department official said, AFP reported.
Kerry had strongly backed the bid by the company based in his home state of Massachusetts, before taking office as the new top U.S. diplomat on February 1.
“Part of the goal of this is to push U.S. commercial interests, to demonstrate to Oman that these are important to this administration,” the official added.
The agreement in January was said to be verbal, but a letter of intent is expected to be signed Wednesday, with Kerry due to hold talks later Tuesday with Oman's ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
The final details of the deal have yet to be worked out, but officials said the contract would be worth an estimated $2.1bn.
Raytheon Chief Executive Bill Swanson said last month that the company was making “considerable progress” on a number of foreign arms sales, including a deal to sell a ground-based air defense system to Oman.
A U.S. State Department official confirmed that the deal would upgrade the country’s ability to defend its critical infrastructure from unmanned-aerial vehicles and cruise missiles, Bloomberg reported.
“It will further integrate the defensive systems in the Gulf, which is something we have been working on quite a bit within the GCC,” the official said, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council.
“There are similar systems elsewhere in the Gulf,” the U.S. official said.
“Oman has also recently brought a second tranche of F-16s so this is a way of continuing our relationship in the defense arena and will have pluses in terms of interoperability.”
Kerry's visit is the first stop on a week-long trip that will take him to Amman in Jordan for talks on bringing Syria's warring parties to a peace conference and to Jerusalem and Ramallah to discuss reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
Both issues are expected to come up when Kerry meets Oman's Sultan Qaboos, the Arab world's longest-serving ruler, on Tuesday, said U.S. officials, who spoke to reporters while Kerry flew to Ireland for refueling before heading to Oman.
“It's basically a chance to do a signals check with an important ally,” said a senior State Department official. “Oman is not a key player on Syria but, as an important player in the Gulf, I think it will be good to hear the sultan's views on the situation in the region writ large.”