Oman can help smooth over Gulf and Iran relations, says diplomat

Oman’s Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Sayyid Badr Hamad Al-Busaidi, (left) fielding questions after his speech on Thursday to members of the Singapore Press Club, which was moderated by Mr Zainul Abidin, chairman of S
Oman’s Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Sayyid Badr Hamad Al-Busaidi, (left) fielding questions after his speech on Thursday to members of the Singapore Press Club, which was moderated by Mr Zainul Abidin, chairman of SPHRadio and a member of the Press Club. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE PRESS CLUB

Oman, a key intermediary between the West and Iran, can help ensure peace and stability in the Gulf region without isolating Iran, according to a top Omani diplomat visiting Singapore.

"We've got to recognise that Iran is after all a regional country in the Gulf, it is not a country that is alien to us," said Oman's Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sayyid Badr Hamad Al-Busaidi. He was addressing an audience attending Singapore Press Club's Eminent Speaker Series at the Mandarin Orchard Singapore on Thursday.

"You just can't isolate a country like Iran and claim you can achieve long-term peace and security in the region," Mr Sayyid Badr said, in response to a question about how Oman could help ease tensions in the Gulf region over Iran.

On Wednesday, the latest round of talks to limit Iran's nuclear programme ended on a positive note in Vienna, with US and Iranian officials claiming progress and preparing to enter more intensive talks next month to draft a written agreement.

The Omani diplomat, who was in town on a short private visit, also spoke at length about Oman-Singapore relations.

He is one of the officials behind the Jewel of Muscat exhibit, a restored 9th century Arab trading ship that was a royal gift from Oman to Singapore that sailed here in 2010.

Oman, an Arab monarchy home to 3.9 million people, 44.2 per cent of whom are expatriates, is bordered by Arab nations including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It also shares marine borders with Iran and Pakistan.

Last year, Oman, which is one of the world's biggest oil and natural gas producers, surprised many by opposing Saudi Arabia's proposal to form a Gulf Union against Iran.

At the same time, despite its warm bilateral ties and economic cooperation with Teheran, Oman openly supported the US in promoting talks with Teheran to curb Iran's nuclear programme, so as to ease tensions between the Gulf monarchies and Iran.

A peaceful resolution of Iran's disputed nuclear programme will have "great impact" on the relations between Iran and the Gulf states, as well as between Iran and the rest of the world, said Mr Sayyid.

To do that, Oman needs to engage other countries in the region towards the common goal.

"There are uncertainties, of course, and there'll always be suspicions, some mistrust perhaps, but we are in the business of rebuilding that trust and confidence, in order to bring the region together in a harmonious way that can only bring benefits to all of us," he said.

"It's not a zero sum, it's definitely a win-win process that we are encouraging and developing."

changmc@sph.com.sg

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