- Putin arrives in Saudi Arabia to meet with the Crown Prince
- Putin met with Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan
- Russian fighter jets escort Putin’s plane
- Putin on an unusual trip to the Middle East
- Oil, OPEC+, Gaza and Ukraine on the agenda
RIYADH (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin landed in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday for hastily arranged talks with 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, intends to make specifically about oil or geopolitics in a face-to-face meeting with the crown prince of the world’s largest oil exporter.
Putin’s meeting with MbS, as the prince is widely known, comes after oil prices fell despite a commitment from OPEC+, which brings together the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies led by Russia to cut production even further.
The Russian Defense Ministry displayed the Kremlin chief’s Ilyushin-96 aircraft flanked by Sukhoi-35S fighter jets on its flight from Russia to the United Arab Emirates, its first stop.
In Abu Dhabi, President Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan welcomed his “dear friend” Putin, while planes from the United Arab Emirates greeted him with a flyover in the colors of the Russian flag.
“Our relations, largely due to your position, have reached an unprecedented level,” Putin told him. “The United Arab Emirates is Russia’s main trading partner in the Arab world.”
Putin said Russia and the United Arab Emirates cooperate as part of OPEC+, whose members extract more than 40% of the world’s oil, adding that they would discuss the conflict between Israel and Hamas and Ukraine.
After the UAE, Putin flew to Saudi Arabia for his first face-to-face meeting with MbS since October 2019. His last visit to the region was in July 2022, when he met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei , in Iran.
The trip to meet MbS, just days after a key OPEC+ meeting was delayed, appeared hastily arranged. A source had previously told Reuters that MbS had plans to visit Moscow.
The Russian delegation includes senior oil, economic, foreign affairs, space and nuclear energy officials.
Putin will host his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, in Moscow on Thursday.
PUTIN AND MBS
The Kremlin said that, in addition to oil, Putin and MbS would discuss the war between Israel and Hamas, 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 MbS, who together control a fifth of the oil extracted each day, have long enjoyed close relations, although both have sometimes been ostracized by the West.
At a G20 summit in 2018, just two months after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate, Putin and MbS high-fived and shook hands with smiles.
MbS, 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 to Ukraine in February 2022, says Russia is locked 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 MbS 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 shoulder to keep prices high and how to verify it.
Last month, OPEC+ delayed its meeting for several days due to disagreements over production levels. Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said OPEC+ also wanted more guarantees from Moscow that it would fulfill its promise to reduce fuel exports.
Relations between Saudi Arabia and Russia in OPEC+ have been rocky at times and a deal on cuts nearly broke down in March 2020, but the two managed to mend fences within weeks and OPEC+ agreed to record cuts of nearly 10%. of global demand.
Since war broke out between Israel and Hamas in October, Putin has called the conflict a failure of U.S. policy in the Middle East and has fostered ties with Arab allies and Iran, as well as the Palestinian militant group.
Editing by Guy Faulconbridge, Andrew Osborn, Bernadette Baum, and Alexander Smith
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