US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Oman yesterday aiming to help finalize an estimated $ 2.1 billion deal to supply a US-made air-defense system to the Gulf nation.
One of the main focuses of Kerry’s trip was to applaud the signing of a letter of intent between Muscat and US manufacturer Raytheon ahead of talks to negotiate the final contract, officials told reporters on the flight to Oman.
“In January the Omanis made a decision to buy a ground-based air defense system produced by Raytheon ... something that the secretary advocated for when he was in the Senate,” a senior State Department official said. Kerry had strongly backed the bid by the company based in his home state of Massachusetts, before taking office as the new top US diplomat on Feb. 1.
“Part of the goal of this is to push US commercial interests, to demonstrate to Oman that these are important to this administration,” the official added.
After arriving, Kerry first headed for talks with Oman’s ruler, Sultan Qaboos, at his vast beige and white palace complex, an oasis of green and palm trees set against a backdrop of mountains in the desert landscape.
The final details of the Raytheon deal have yet to be worked out, but officials said the contract expected to be signed on Wednesday would be worth an estimated $ 2.1 billion.
“It will further integrate the defensive systems in the Gulf, which is something we have been working on quite a bit within the GCC,” the official said, referring to the GCC.
“There are similar systems elsewhere in the Gulf,” she said.
“Oman has also recently brought a second tranche of F-16s so this is a way of continuing our relationship in the defense arena and will have pluses in terms of interoperability.” US officials said the deal to supply 12 F-16s was sealed in 2011 for delivery through 2014.
Kerry will also discuss the war in Syria with Oman.
“Oman is not a key player in Syria, but as an important player in the Gulf it will be good to hear the sultan’s views on the situation in the region writ large,” the State Department said.