MUSCAT (Dispatches) -- President Hassan Rouhani said Iran sought good relations with its Persian Gulf Arab neighbors as he began a one-day trip to Oman and Kuwait on Wednesday, his first since taking power in 2013.
"The basis of the policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is always good neighborly relations with neighbors 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 Shias and Sunnis, saying they had "coexisted side by side peacefully for hundreds of years."
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. 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 Persian Gulf in a deal valued at $60 billion.
Saudi Arabia and Bahrain cut diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016 after protesters attacked 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 regional neighbors.
In his talks with the Omani king, Rouhani said the common enemies of Islam and the regional Arab countries have been propagating Iranophobia while Tehran’s power has always served peace.
"Tehran has always been the harbinger of the settlement of problems and differences through dialogue, and Iran’s military might is solely defensive and supports regional security,” he said.
The Iranian president stressed that the region's security could be guaranteed only through cooperation among regional countries.
"Therefore, regional countries need to stand by each other and cooperate for the sake of lasting stability and security in the region,” he added.
Describing Iran and Oman as the "guardians of the Strait of Hormuz,” Rouhani underlined the two countries' role in safeguarding the security of the region and the strategic route for international trade.
He also welcomed the expansion of ties between Iran and other countries of the region.
Iran has come to the help of regional countries whenever they were entangled in challenges, including terrorism, and will continue to render assistance to them if they demand it, the Iranian president added.
Rouhani described Muscat-Tehran relations as "friendly and deep-rooted,” and welcomed the promotion of ties in different sectors, including economy, transportation, energy and trade.
Touching on the conflicts in the region, including in Yemen, the Iranian president described the situation in the impoverished Arab state as "very grave” and called for serious action to address the issue.
"The Muslims countries of the region are all duty-bound to take... measures to help the oppressed people of Yemen," Rouhani said.
The establishment of a ceasefire, the delivery of humanitarian aid and intra-Yemeni talks are the key to ending the crisis in the country, he added.
Sultan Qaboos, for his part, welcomed the expansion of ties between his country and Iran in the political, economic and cultural sectors.
He praised Iran’s resolve to hold amicable ties with its neighbors and promote regional cooperation, saying such a policy would serve the region's peace and security.
The Omani ruler added that the countries of the Persian Gulf region had a "prime responsibility" to restore regional security through "consultations."