First Published: 2017-10-05

King Salman in Russia for first visit by Saudi ruler
Saudi Kings three-day trip is expected to focus on energy, Syrian conflict in meeting with Russian President.
Middle East Online

The first official visit to Russia by a ruler of Saudi Arabia

MOSCOW - On a landmark visit to Russia, Saudi Arabia's King Salman and President Vladimir Putin were set on Thursday to clinch a host of multi-billion-dollar energy and defence deals despite discord over the Syrian war.

The first official trip to Russia by a Saudi monarch will also see the leaders of the world's largest energy exporters discuss an extension of an OPEC agreement to cap oil output.

"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 to Moscow in an ornate gilded Kremlin hall.

"I'm sure your visit will boost the ties between our countries," he said.

"We aim to strengthen our relations in the interests of peace and security, in the interests of developing the world economy," the Saudi king responded.

- 'Positive cooperation' -

Citing Russia's energy minister Alexander Novak, the Financial Times reported that Russia and Saudi Arabia were expected to sign deals worth over $3 billion (2.5 billion euros), including a $1 billion energy investment fund and a $1.1 billion agreement for Russia's petrochemicals giant Sibur to build a plant in Saudi Arabia.

Russia's Kommersant business daily reported Putin and Salman were also due to discuss an arms deal worth more than $3 billion, to supply Riyadh with S-400 air defence systems.

Russia and Saudi Arabia are heavily dependent on oil exports and the global plunge of the price of crude that began in 2014 lashed both their economies.

OPEC members have joined with Russia and other countries in cutting crude output in a pact that has helped prop up prices.

Putin said on Wednesday it was possible to extend an OPEC deal to cap oil output "at least until the end of 2018".

The current agreement runs until March 2018.

"We strive to continue the positive cooperation between our countries to achieve stability on world oil markets which promotes the growth of the world's economy," Salman said in Moscow.

The leaders held one-on-one talks, followed by broader discussions. Once they sign the expected deals, Putin will host a state dinner for Salman.

"The political will of Moscow and Riyadh for deeper cooperation on the widest range of issues is clear," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists ahead of the meetings.

- Awkward start -

The 81-year-old Saudi monarch's three-day visit got off to an awkward start on Wednesday evening after landing at Moscow's Vnukovo-2 airport when the escalator he uses to descend from his plane malfunctioned.

The escalator stopped midway, forcing the king to walk down himself, to be met by Russian officials including deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin and a military brass band.

His delegation of around 1,000 people occupied all the available hotel rooms in five-star hotels around the Kremlin, including one entire hotel, state RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Salman arrived in Moscow along with Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and Minister of State Musaed al-Aiban.

The head of Saudi's state-owned oil giant Aramco Amin Nasser told Rossiya 24 state television ahead of the talks that the company would sign agreements with Russia's Gazprom, Gazprom Neft and Sibur energy companies as well as with an affiliate of Lukoil.

- Discord over Syria, Yemen -

The Kremlin said ahead of the visit that Salman and Putin would also discuss the Middle East, "especially focusing on conflict situations in the region."

While Russia and Saudi Arabia are partners on the oil market, they are at loggerheads on Syria, where Moscow supports President Bashar al-Assad and Riyadh backs the opposition.

They also diverge on Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been bombing Huthi rebels since 2015, drawing criticism from Moscow.

Putin visited Riyadh in 2007 and last met Salman in Turkey in 2015. Salman said he last visited Russia in 2006, before becoming king.


Saudi to carry out nuclear power deal with or without US

Air strikes hit Ghouta despite rebel ceasefire effort

Three dead after suspected IS gunman takes hostages in France

US approves $1 billion in Saudi defence contracts

Exiled Syrian doctors treat refugees in Turkey

Iraqi asylum seeker gets life sentence for London bombing

UK says Israeli sentencing of Palestinian teenage girl "emblematic"

Israel ministers welcome US appointment of 'friend' Bolton

Sarkozy vows to clear name in Libya probe

Syria announces second evacuation deal for rebel-held Eastern Ghouta.

170,000 flee violence in Syria's Afrin

Norway proposes bill to ban full-face veils in education

Turkey says EU statements on Cyprus 'unacceptable'

In world first, flight to Israel crosses Saudi airspace

Saudi, US must pursue 'urgent efforts' for Yemen peace: Mattis

US, Jordan launch new counterterrorism training centre

Turkey’s largest media group to be sold to Erdogan ally

Rebels evacuate Syria's Eastern Ghouta

Two Hamas security force members killed in raid on bomb suspect

Turkey gives watchdog power to block internet broadcasts

EU leaders to condemn Turkey’s ‘illegal’ actions in Mediterranean

Sarkozy says life ‘living hell’ since corruption allegations

Hezbollah leader says debt threatens Lebanon disaster

Ahed Tamimi reaches plea deal for eight months in jail

UN launching final push to salvage Libya political agreement

Conditions for displaced from Syria's Ghouta 'tragic': UN

Sisi urges Egyptians to vote, denies excluding rivals

Rights Watch says Libya not ready for elections

Saudis revamp school curriculum to combat Muslim Brotherhood

American mother trapped in Syria’s Ghouta calls out Trump

Syria workers say French firm abandoned them to jihadists

Grim Nowruz for Kurds fleeing Afrin

Sarkozy back in custody for second day of questioning

'Saudization' taking its toll on salesmen

Syrian rebels reach evacuation deal in Eastern Ghouta town

Israel confirms it hit suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007

UN says Turkey security measures 'curtail human rights'

Netanyahu says African migrants threaten Jewish majority

US Senate votes on involvement in Yemen war as Saudi prince visits

What a ‘limited strike’ against Syria’s Assad might mean

Erdogan tells US to stop ‘deceiving’, start helping on Syria

IS controls Damascus district in surprise attack

French ex-president held over Libya financing allegations

NGO says Israeli army violating Palestinian minors’ rights

Human rights chief slams Security Council for inaction on Syria