(Updates with Rouhani's meeting Oman's Sultan Qaboos)
BEIRUT Feb 15 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
said his country sought good relations with its Gulf Arab
neighbours as he began a one-day trip to Oman and Kuwait on
Wednesday, his first since taking power in 2013.
Relations between predominantly Shi'ite Iran and the mainly
Sunni Arab countries of the Gulf, particularly Saudi Arabia,
remain strained over their support for opposing sides in the
conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
"The basis of the policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is
always good neighbourly relations with neighbours and the
security of the Persian Gulf," Rouhani said, according to the
Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
Rouhani also said there should be greater unity between
Shi’ites and Sunnis, saying they had "coexisted side by side
peacefully for hundreds of years", IRNA reported.
Omani state news agency ONA reported that the country's
ruler, Sultan Qaboos, welcomed Rouhani with a 21 gun salute when
he arrived at the al-Alam Palace in the capital Muscat. Omani
media showed Qaboos receiving Rouhani outside the palace, the
sultan's second public appearance since he returned from medical
checks in Germany in April last year.
The agency said the two sides discussed ways for enhancing
bilateral cooperation but gave no further details. Oman helped
to mediate secret U.S.-Iran talks in 2013 that led to the
historic nuclear deal signed in Geneva two years later.
Qaboos became the first Arab head of state to visit Iran
after Rouhani took office.
In 2013, the two countries signed an agreement to supply
Iranian gas to Oman through a pipeline to be built under the
Gulf in a deal valued at $60 billion.
Saudi Arabia and Bahrain cut diplomatic relations with Iran
in January 2016 after protesters torched the Saudi embassy in
Tehran. Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates recalled
their envoys in a show of solidarity with Riyadh, but Oman only
expressed regret over the attack, highlighting its better ties.
Rouhani was due in Kuwait later on Wednesday for talks with
the emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, expected to include
efforts to ease tensions between Tehran and Riyadh.
Kuwait’s foreign minister made a rare visit to Tehran in
late January and called for frank dialogue between Iran and its
(Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh and Sami Aboudi in Dubai,;
Editing by Gareth Jones)