Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday arrived in Saudi Arabia, where he was set to seal oil agreements and try to use his influence to defuse tensions boiling in the Gulf.
King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, welcomed Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at Al-Yamama Palace in Riyadh with full military honours.
Putin’s visit follows attacks on Saudi oil installations that Riyadh and Washington have blamed on Moscow ally Tehran.
Oil will be “the main topic of discussion”, Russian political analyst Fydor Lukyanov said, as a deal between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Moscow is due to expire next spring.
Moscow is not a member of OPEC, 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.
Traditional US ally Riyadh and Moscow have made a striking rapprochement in recent years, marked in particular by King Salman’s first visit to Russia in October 2017.
A year later, when the Saudi crown prince, known as MBS, was under fire over the assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, Putin went out of his way to shake his hand at a G20 summit.
In an interview with Arabic-language television channels ahead of his visit, Putin praised his good relations with the Saudi royals.
“We will absolutely work with Saudi Arabia and our other partners and friends in the Arab world... to reduce to zero any attempt to destabilise the oil market,” he said in the interview broadcast Sunday.
Analyst Lukyanov said that Moscow, with its older ties to Iran and new links with Saudi, could “play the role of peacemaker” as tensions soar between Tehran and Riyadh.