Iran and Oman sign agreements to build gas pipelines and an oil field along the maritime border

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MUSCAT, Oman – Oman and Iran have signed agreements to develop two gas pipelines and an oil field along their maritime border, Oman’s energy minister said on Saturday, less than two weeks after the visit of the Iranian president in the sultanate.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s visit on May 23 came amid stalled international talks to revive a deal on Tehran’s nuclear program, leaving the Islamic Republic under sanctions.

At the time, Oman’s official news agency reported that the countries had signed oil and gas memorandums of understanding, but did not provide details.

On Saturday, the agency quoted Omani Energy Minister Mohammed al-Rumhi as saying the deals were “linked to the development of the two gas pipeline projects linking the two countries and the Hengam oilfield”.

A deal was struck about two decades ago to allow Iran to supply gas to Oman, but the project never materialized.

Sanctions against Iran have complicated efforts to execute this project and could also make it difficult to implement the new agreement.

Illustrative: This file photo from March 16, 2019 shows a natural gas refinery in the South Pars gas field on the northern Persian Gulf coast in Asaluyeh, Iran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

The Hengam oilfield is located in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, near the United Arab Emirates.

Oman has close political and economic ties with Iran and played a mediating role between Tehran and Washington in preparing for the initial nuclear deal in 2015.

Stop-start talks began in April last year to reinstate the deal, after the US unilaterally withdrew from it in 2018 and reimposed biting sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to go back on its commitments.

The 2015 deal relieved Iran of crippling economic sanctions in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear activities.

The sultanate, which faces Iran across the Gulf of Oman, has suffered economic hardship during the pandemic, with its GDP falling 6.4% in 2020 and public debt soaring.

It has seen rare protests over high unemployment and layoffs last year.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks before leaving Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport for a trip to Oman, May 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Raisi’s visit to Oman was his second to a Gulf country since taking office in August 2021.

He visited Qatar in February, where he met Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and took part in a conference of gas-exporting countries.

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