Iran confirms indirect talks with United States

Iran has confirmed that it held indirect talks with arch foe the United States in Oman despite the two countries having no diplomatic relations, state media reported.

Washington and Tehran have long been sharply at odds with tensions centred on Iran’s contested nuclear programme and heightened by the Gaza war between their respective allies Israel and Hamas.

On Friday, American news website Axios reported that US and Iranian officials held indirect talks in Oman “on how to avoid escalating regional attacks”.

The official IRNA news agency said late Saturday that “the representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations confirmed indirect negotiations between Iran and the United States in Oman”.

It quoted him as saying that “these negotiations were not the first and will not be the last”, without giving the time and place of the talks.

The discussions were held after Iran launched an unprecedented drone and missile attack on Israel on April 13-14.

The barrage came in response to a deadly April 1 air strike, widely blamed on Israel, that levelled Iran’s consulate in Damascus and killed seven Revolutionary Guards, two of them generals.

The Israeli army said the vast majority of the over 300 missiles and drones fired by Iran were intercepted with the help of the United States and other allies, and that the attack caused only minimal damage.

Less than a week later, explosions shook a site in Iran’s central province of Isfahan in what US media reported as an Israeli response to the Iranian attack.

Tehran has since downplayed the reported Israeli raid and said it would not respond unless Iranian “interests” were again targeted.

Israel has been Iran’s sworn enemy since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Regional tensions have soared since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip, drawing in Iran-backed militant groups in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.

Switzerland represents Washington’s interests in Iran.

The two foes have in recent years engaged in indirect talks over measures to curb Tehran’s nuclear programme, prisoner swaps and releasing Iran’s frozen funds abroad.