Saudi king visits Russia, seals energy, arms deals worth billions

In a historic first trip to Moscow, Saudi Arabia King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Russian President Vladimir Putin negotiated a series of energy and arms agreements worth $3 billion.

Trade between the two nations surpassed $2.8 billion in 2016.  In 2015, the Saudis pledged to invest $10 billion in Russia by 2020.  Russia remains the Saudi kingdom’s largest source of imported wheat.

“This is the first visit by a Saudi Arabian monarch in the history of our relations and that in itself is a landmark event,” Putin said as he welcomed King Salman.

Mr. Putin also praised the Saudi regent’s visit, saying Salman’s visit will boost bilateral relations.

For his part, Salman responded:

“We aim to strengthen our relations in the interests of peace and security, in the interests of developing the world economy.”

A signal of deepening ties between former foes in Syria, the Saudis agreed to purchase Russian-manufactured S-400 air-defense missile systems, anti-tank missile systems and advanced technology.

In addition to receiving vast upgrades in weapons, the Saudi Arabia also mutually agreed with Russia to create a fund to develop future energy projects.

Despite the significance of the trip, the two world leaders did engage in conversation encompass a wide range of global issues.

Among matters outside energy and arms, when addressing Iran, King Salman did not sidestep criticizing Tehran.  Blasting Iran’s meddling in Syria, Salman said:

“We emphasize that the security and stability of the Gulf region and the Middle East is an urgent necessity for achieving stability and security in Yemen.  This would demand that Iran give up interference with the internal affairs of the region, to give up actions destabilizing the situation in this region.”

Although Salman reserved his harshest words for Iran, he did express concerns elsewhere.  On the matter of Kurdish independence, he told Putin of his desire to see Iraq remain intact.

Elsewhere in the region, Salman reiterated the Saudi position on Palestine, saying his vision for a solution of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict would see an independent Palestinian state and its capital in East Jerusalem.

 

[The Economic Times] [Times of Israel] [Photo courtesy Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky via Reuters]

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