Iran's First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber welcomes Oman's Sultan Haitham bin Tariq upon his arrival at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran, Iran May 28, 2023. REUTERS./

By Parisa Hafezi

 – Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said arrived in Tehran on Sunday for a two-day visit expected to focus on regional diplomatic and security issues, Iranian state media said, two days after Muscat mediated a prisoner swap between Iran and Belgium.

Oman has long been an interlocutor for the West with Iran and has mediated the release of several foreign citizens and dual nationals.

On Friday, Oman helped to secure the release of a Belgian aid worker, who was arrested in 2022 and sentenced to 40 years in prison and 74 lashes on charges including spying, in exchange for an Iranian diplomat sentenced to 20 years in prison in connection with a failed bomb plot in France.

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But dozens of foreigners and dual nationals remain in jail in Iran, most facing espionage and security-related accusations. Rights groups have criticised the arrests as a tactic by Tehran to win concessions from the West by inventing charges, which Tehran denies.

Haitham met Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran, Iranian state TV reported, adding that Iran and Oman will sign at least four agreements in the fields of economy, investment and energy.

Issues such as Tehran’s strained ties with Egypt and Iran‘s disputed nuclear programme are expected to be discussed during Haitham’s visit, Iranian state media reported.

The visit comes as Iran also faces renewed criticism of its human rights record and allegations that Russia is using Iranian drones in its war in Ukraine. Tehran denies supplying the drones for use in war.

Efforts by six world powers to revive Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal have stalled since last September, amid growing Western fears about the clerical establishment’s rapidly advancing nuclear programme.

The deal, which Washington ditched in 2018 under then President Donald Trump, had imposed curbs on Iran‘s nuclear activities that extended the time Tehran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb, if it chose to do so. Iran denies ever seeking nuclear weapons.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi, Editing by Jane Merriman and Giles Elgood)

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