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Iran’s Zarif Meetsh Omani Counterpart In Possible Sign Of Mediation Effort

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with his Omani counterpart, seen by some observers as a possible facilitator of talks with Washington.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has met with Yusuf bin Alawi, his counterpart from Oman -- a neutral country that in the past has acted as a facilitator of talks between Tehran and Washington.

The July 27 visit of the Omani official comes as tensions continue to rise between Tehran and the United States and its allies around the Strait of Hormuz, a vital commercial waterway in the Persian Gulf region.

Oman in the past has initiated mediation efforts and has said it was working “with other parties” to ease tensions between Washington and Tehran.

"There is a danger that a war breaks out, hurting the whole world," Alawi was quoted as saying in an Arab-language newspaper interview in May. "Both parties -- the Americans and the Iranians -- are aware of the danger."

However, neither Iran nor Oman said that any mediation efforts are under way.

Fears of an armed conflict have risen following a series of incidents in the region, including attacks on Western oil tankers off the coast of Oman, a country of 4.6 million people located across the strait from Iran.

No injuries were reported in those attacks, but vessels were damaged, and the United States and Saudi Arabia blamed Iran and its proxies for the attacks. Tehran has denied any involvement.

Following those incidents, Iranian commandos seized a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19, two weeks after British forces captured an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar, accusing it of violating sanctions on Syria.

Britain said it acted near Gibraltar because the Iranian tanker Grace 1 was busting sanctions by delivering oil to Syria. Iran claimed it seized the British-flagged tanker after it hit an Iranian fishing boat.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani on July 24 hinted that Tehran was open to a possible tanker swap with Britain and to indirect talks with the United States over its nuclear program and U.S.-imposed sanctions against Tehran.

After meeting the Omani diplomat, Zarif tweeted that the session dealt with the "effects of the U.S.' economic terrorism on Iran; bilateral relations, regional developments & security in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman."

Later, Oman’s Alawi met with Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, state-run TV said.

Shamkhani said that “some of the region's countries have not only removed the possibility of talks because of hasty and arrogant moves and behavior, but have also made managing regional crises a serious challenge."

The admiral did not specify the countries he was referring to, but Shi’ite Muslim Tehran is a bitter rival with Sunni-led Saudi Arabia and its ally, the United Arab Emirates.

Shamkhani also lambasted a British plan to form a European coalition to escort tankers in the Persian Gulf.

"Security measures for the region must use local capabilities and cooperation between regional countries, and foreign countries' interference will achieve nothing but increase problems," he said.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

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