Security

Oman allows US military to use sea, air ports

By AFP

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This file photo from July 2012 shows boats moored in the Omani port of Khasab, along the Strait of Hormuz. [Karim Sahib/AFP]

Oman announced Sunday (March 24th) it had signed an agreement with the US that would allow US ships and warplanes to take advantage of its ports and airports.

The state-run Oman News Agency said the "framework agreement" was aimed at bolstering "Omani-American military relations".

"It will allow the US forces to take advantage from the facilities offered at some of the sultanate's ports and airports during visits of the US military vessels and aircrafts, particularly in the port of Duqm," it said.

Duqm port is located in southern Oman on the Arabian Sea, around 500 kilometres from the Strait of Hormuz.

At the mouth of the Gulf, the strait is crucial to global energy supplies, with about a third of the world's seaborne oil passing through it every day.

Iran has repeatedly threatened to block the strait due to tensions with Gulf nations, including its main regional rival Saudi Arabia.

The narrow waterway is also an international transit route which has seen tense encounters between US and Iranian forces in the past.

The US has a number of military bases across the Gulf -- the largest in Qatar with about 10,000 troops.

The US-Omani deal was signed by the defence ministries of both countries.

Long-standing partnership

The US-Omani partnership is one of the oldest in the region, inaugurated by an 1833 treaty in support of friendship and navigation, according to the US State Department.

The two countries have maintained close defence ties since the establishment of official diplomatic relations in 1972, signing a military co-operation agreement in 1980, and revising and renewing that agreement in 2010.

The US and Oman work closely to ensure freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz, and co-operate on counter-piracy, preventing weapons and narcotics trafficking, and preventing other illegal activities.

The UK and Oman on February 25th also signed a joint defence agreement to enhance defence co-operation and promote regional stability in the Gulf.

The Royal Army of Oman in January took part in a three-week joint military exercise with US forces dubbed "Inferno Creek 19".

The drill, held near the coastal town of Rabkoot in southern Oman, enabled both sides to improve combat skills and readiness to confront any dangers they may encounter in the region and to enhance joint work between them.

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