Russia's Putin meets Saudi, UAE leaders in whirlwind Middle East visit

President Vladimir Putin visits Saudi Arabia for his first face-to-face talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman since October 2019. (Photo/AFP)

Russian President Vladimir has held talks with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on oil, Gaza and Ukraine.

It was not immediately clear what Putin, who has rarely left Russia since the start of the Ukraine war, intended to raise specifically about oil or geopolitics in a meeting with the crown prince of the world's largest crude exporter.

The meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed comes after a fall in oil prices despite a pledge by OPEC+, which groups the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies led by Russia, to further cut output.

In introductory remarks shown on Russian television, Putin thanked the crown prince for his invitation, saying he had originally expected Mohammed bin Salman to visit Moscow, "but there were changes to plans".

Their next meeting should take place in Moscow, he said, adding: "Nothing can prevent the development of our friendly relations."

Russia's defence ministry had earlier shown the Kremlin chief's Ilyushin-96 aircraft flanked by Sukhoi-35S fighter jets on its flight from Russia to the United Arab Emirates.

'Dear friend'

Putin's delegation included top oil, economy, foreign affairs, space and nuclear energy officials.

During Putin's first stop in Abu Dhabi, President Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan welcomed his "dear friend", while a fly-past of UAE jets trailed the colours of the Russian flag.

“Our relations, largely due to your position, have reached an unprecedentedly high level,” Putin told him. "The UAE is Russia's main trading partner in the Arab world."

Putin said Russia and the UAE cooperated as part of OPEC+, whose members pump more than 40 percent of the world's oil, adding that they would discuss the Israeli war on Gaza and Ukraine conflict.

He then headed to Riyadh for his first face-to-face talks with Crown Prince Mohammed of Saudi Arabia since October 2019.

The trip, only days after a key OPEC+ meeting was delayed, appeared hastily arranged. One source had told Reuters beforehand that Mohammed bin Salman had plans to visit Moscow.

Putin's last visit to the region was in July 2022, when he met Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Iran. The Russian president is due to host his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi in Moscow on Thursday.

Putin and Mohammed bin Salman

The Kremlin had said earlier that, as well as oil, Putin and Mohammed bin Salman would discuss the Israeli war on Gaza, the situation in Syria and Yemen, and issues such as ensuring stability in the Gulf, while an aide said Ukraine would also be discussed.

Putin and Crown Prince Mohammed, who together control one-fifth of the oil pumped each day, have long enjoyed close relations, though both have at times been ostracised by the West.

Mohammed bin Salman, 38, has sought to reassert Saudi Arabia as a regional power with less deference to the United States, which supplies Riyadh with most of its weapons.

Putin, who sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022, says Russia is engaged in an existential battle with the West — and has courted allies across the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia amid Western attempts to isolate Moscow.

Both Mohammed bin Salman and Putin, 71, want — and need — high prices for oil, the lifeblood of their economies. The question for both is how much of the burden each should take on to keep prices aloft — and how to verify the burden.


Source: TRT