Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet Iranian president Hassan Rouhani in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek on Friday amid mounting tension in the Persian Gulf region, with the US blaming the west Asian country for reported attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman a day earlier.
The two leaders are in Kyrgyzstan for the two-day regional Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meet ending later today.
A schedule put out by the Indian foreign ministry said Modi will meet Rouhani on Friday afternoon. India till recently was one of the major buyers of Iranian oil but with the US pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and re-imposing sanctions, aimed at bringing the country back to the negotiating table, New Delhi has stopped buying oil from Iran after 2 May.
Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif had visited India in May, when the then Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj had said her government will take a decision on buying oil from Iran after the conclusion of Lok Sabha polls. The election results announced on 23 May saw the Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party ride to power for a second term with a mandate stronger than ever before.
US officials have meanwhile said India and seven other countries granted special exemptions to buy oil from Iran in November would not be given an extension and New Delhi will have to stop its fuel purchases from there.
Modi’s scheduled talks with Rouhani will come hours after US secretary Mike Pompeo slammed Iran for an early-morning assault on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which ended a Japanese mediation effort and raised fear over the safety of vessels passing through the key oil artery to the west, a news report in the Guardian newspaper said.
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe had begun two-day visit to Iran on Wednesday that had raised expectations that Tokyo would seek to mediate between Tehran and Washington after weeks of heightened tensions, the Financial Times said in a report on Thursday. Abe’s trip to Iran was the first by a Japanese premier since the Islamic revolution in 1979 and the first by a G7 leader since the US unilaterally withdrew from a landmark nuclear accord Tehran signed in 2015, it said.
According to the report in Guardian, Pompeo said the US believed blasts on the two tankers were carried out by Iran “based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation". He also claimed that the attacks in the Strait of Hormuz had such a high degree of sophistication they could not be carried out by a proxy.
Pompeo offered no evidence for his claim and took no questions after making his allegations. He said Iran was also responsible for a wave of attacks on tankers last month, but the official investigation into those attacks has failed to determine who was responsible, the Guardian report said.
Tehran has denied all responsibility of the attacks, with its foreign minister Zarif suggesting that others could be trying to provoke a conflict between Iran and the US. The incident took place on a day Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, bluntly rejected the proposal of a resumption of US-Iranian talks, suggested by Abe while on a visit to Tehran.