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Saudi King on Historic Visit to Moscow

New era of relations touted as investments, oil prices, and Middle East strategies take center stage.

5 October 2017

Saudi Arabia's King Salman is being hosted by the Kremlin, marking the first time a Saudi leader has visited Russia or the Soviet Union in the past. Salman arrived in Moscow yesterday and will meet President Vladimir Putin today to discuss oil production, investment deals of up to $3 billion and Middle East regional policy, according to CNBC.

 

Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive of Russia’s direct investment fund, said the royal visit underlined a “significant, dramatic improvement in relations” between the two countries, which have rarely found common ground even in the post-Soviet era.

 

The occasion is the first time a Saudi King has visited Russia. Image: Kremlin.ru

 

Last year’s joint decision by Russia and OPEC to restrict oil production in a bid to support oil prices was a significant step toward closer ties, CNBC says. Arms and energy deals worth billions of dollars followed, and today’s meeting between Putin and Salman could put the finishing touches on a $1 billion joint energy investment fund.

 

Saudi Arabia may be looking to diversify its alliances globally as its traditional U.S. ally struggles to form a cohesive Middle East policy, the Guardian writes. The Syrian civil war found the Saudis angry at Moscow over its support for Bashar al-Assad, but the poor showing by the Saudi-backed opposition may have persuaded Riyadh that he has won the battle to retain power.

 

Writing in The Moscow Times, Yuri Barmin, an expert at the Russian International Affairs Council with a focus on Russia’s presence in the Middle East, says that while both countries have far-reaching economic and strategic goals for the visit, it could “become a trust-building measure removing another variable from the Middle Eastern geopolitical equation.”

 

 

  • Groundwork for the visit was laid by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who is looking to exert his political authority and ensure a smooth transition to power with successful foreign policy ventures, Leonid Issaev of Russia’s National Research University Higher School of Economics writes for Al Jazeera. The prince has promoted closer ties for the past two years and visited Moscow in May.

 

  • In 2015, Assad made his first foreign trip since the Arab Spring to Moscow and thanked Putin for his support in the bloody Syrian conflict. International human rights agencies, the United Nations, Washington, and the European Union have accused Assad of committing war crimes in the conflict.

Compiled by Kate Syme-Lamont

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