İrem UZUN -TDO- China, Russia and Iran will hold joint naval drills starting on Friday (Dec 27) in the Gulf of Oman, Beijing and Tehran said, at a time of heightened tensions since the U.S. withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal with Tehran. Set to take place from Dec 27 to 30, the military exercises aim to "deepen exchange and cooperation between the navies of the three countries", Chinese defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian told reporters Thursday.

China will send the Xining, a guided missile destroyer, to the drills, which will last until Monday, and are meant to deepen cooperation between the three countries’ navies, ministry spokesman Wu Qian told. The drill was a “normal military exchange” between armed forces of three countries and was in line with international law and practices, Wu said. The drills are also coming at a time of fraught tensions between the United States and Iran.Tension has risen in the region not only over Iran’s disputed nuclear program but also over a September attack on Saudi oil facilities blamed on Iran by the United States and Saudi Arabia.

The Gulf of Oman is a particularly sensitive waterway as it connects to the Strait of Hormuz - through which about a fifth of the world's oil passes - which in turn connects to the Gulf.The Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman are key areas for international trade and maintaining security in the waterways is an important task, Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi, spokesman for the Iranian armed forces, said on Wednesday. "This drill will take place for supporting and increasing experience in the security of international trade in the region," he added.

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