Omani FM to head to Iran this weekend

Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah will visit Tehran to discuss bilateral ties amid rising regional tensions in Gulf region.

MUSCAT - Oman's top diplomat will head to Iran this weekend, the Gulf country announced Monday, amid increased regional tensions with the Islamic republic.

"Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah will visit Iran on Saturday to discuss bilateral relations and for continuous consultations, particularly in regards to recent regional developments," the sultanate's foreign ministry said on Twitter.

Oman has maintained good relations with Iran throughout successive regional crises, allowing it at times to play a key mediating role, including with the United States.

Tensions in the Gulf have soared since May amid a deepening standoff between Iran and the US over Tehran's nuclear programme, with a string of incidents involving tankers and drones.

The US and Gulf powerhouse Saudi Arabia blamed Iran for being behind multiple attacks on tankers in the Gulf in June, which Iran denies.

On Friday a British-flagged tanker was impounded by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps with its 23 crew members aboard in the Strait of Hormuz.

Oman has called for the release of the Stena Impero and for London and Tehran to resolve their dispute with diplomacy.

Saudi Arabia slammed Iran's seizure of the ship as "completely unacceptable", urging world powers to "take action to deter such behaviour".

Both Kuwait and Qatar said they were following with "extreme concern" the developments in the region and urged all parties to exercise restraint.

"These actions increase escalation and tensions and put navigation safety under direct threat," the Kuwaiti government said in a statement carried by the official KUNA news agency.

The Gulf has been a theatre of increased pressure on Iran from Washington.

The US deployed an aircraft carrier task force as well as B-52 bombers, an amphibious assault ship and a missile defence battery to the Gulf in May.

The movements came in response to alleged Iranian threats to US interests or those of its Middle East allies.

But they have raised concerns, even among governments close to the US, that brinksmanship with Tehran could lead to a dangerous miscalculation.