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Russia, Saudi Arabia vow to develop ‘friendly’ ties during Putin’s visit

Russian President Vladimir Putin (U.S. Department of State/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has held talks with Saudi Arabia’s king and crown prince in Riyadh as Moscow seeks to increase its presence across the Mideast.

Putin and King Salman presided over a signing ceremony on a string of multi-million-dollar investment contracts between the two countries, targeting sectors such as aerospace, culture, health, and advanced technology.

The deals included an agreement to “reinforce” cooperation among the so-called OPEC+ countries — the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries plus 10 nonmembers of the cartel — according to Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman.

Russia is not an OPEC member but it has worked closely with the group to limit supply and push up prices after a 2014 slump that wreaked havoc on the economies of Russia and cartel heavyweight Saudi Arabia.

Putin said that Russia “attaches particular importance to the development of friendly, and mutually beneficial ties with Saudi Arabia.”

The 83-year-old king told him that Riyadh looks forward to working with Moscow “on everything that will bring security, stability and peace, confront extremism and terrorism, and promote economic growth”.

During his meeting with Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, Putin said cooperation aimed to “strengthen peace and stability in the region and to stabilize the global energy situation.”

Putin’s first visit to the oil-rich state since 2007 comes as Moscow has failed to meet its 3 percent-growth goal for gross domestic product amid stinging Western sanctions.

It also comes amid rising tensions in the Persian Gulf after an attack on Saudi oil facilities last month that the United States, Saudi Arabia, and a number of Western countries have blamed on Iran, which denies involvement.

King Salman made his first visit to Russia in 2017 and a year later Putin publicly shook the hand of the prince at a summit of the Group of 20 industrialized countries.

After Saudi Arabia, the Russian president is scheduled to visit the United Arab Emirates on October 15.