x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman meets Putin in Moscow

The Saudi deputy crown prince and defence minister said relations between Riyadh and Moscow were 'seeing one of their best stages at the moment'.

Russian president Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 30, 2017. Pavel Golovkin / AFP / Pool
Russian president Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 30, 2017. Pavel Golovkin / AFP / Pool

BEIRUT // Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince and defence minister, Mohammed bin Salman, met with Russian president Vladimir Putin on Tuesday in Moscow in an effort to boost bilateral ties.

“Relations between Saudi Arabia and Russia are seeing one of their best stages at the moment,” said Prince Mohammed, according to Russia’s state-run Tass news agency. “We have achieved much in the preceding period, but we have to do still more.”

Mr Putin hailed the strengthened relationship between Moscow and Riyadh and said he was waiting for King Salman to become the first Saudi monarch to visit Russia.

The two nations are sharply divided over Syria and the role of Iran in the Middle East, with Russia backing Syrian president Bashar Al Assad and maintaining friendly ties with Tehran. Riyadh views Tehran as its most dangerous enemy in the region and has actively backed the Syrian opposition.

The two hydrocarbon producing giants have found common ground, however, in their cooperation on oil. On Tuesday, Prince Salman said, “There are no contradictions between Riyadh and Moscow in the oil market”, according to Al Arabiya.

Mr Putin also underlined the role of oil in the relationship.

“Agreements in the energy sphere are of high importance for our nations,” said the Russian president, as quoted by Tass. “Our coordinated activities make it possible to stabilise the situation on global hydrocarbon markets.”

Also on Tuesday, Russian energy minister Alexander Novak met with his Saudi counterpart, Khalid Al Falih, in Moscow to discuss increased cooperation on oil production, refining and transportation.

According to Tass news agency, Mr Novak said Russian oilfield service companies are increasingly interested in working in Saudi Arabia.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed to extend a cut in oil production aimed at raising prices and stabilising the oil market until March 2018. In November last year, Opec members, along with other major oil producers, such as Russia, agreed to cut production by 1.8 million barrels per day for the first half of 2017. Russia overtook Saudi Arabia this year as the world’s largest oil producer and both nations pump more than 10 million barrels of oil per day.

“We appreciate your ideas and joint work on collaborative action by Opec and non-Opec countries, ” Mr Putin told Prince Mohammed, Tass reported.

But agreeing on Syria remains difficult and neither Prince Salman nor Mr Putin offered any breakthroughs on Tuesday. As peace talks between the Syrian opposition and government to end the six-year war keep failing, pressure has increased on foreign powers like Saudi Arabia and Russia to help force a resolution.

Despite this impasse, the two men remained optimistic that the countries could work together.

Mr Putin said Moscow and Riyadh were working together “on the issues of resolving difficult situations, including in Syria.” Prince Mohammed added, “The two countries have a lot of points of mutual understanding. As for the points on which we have differences, a clear mechanism exists to overcome them and we are progressing at a quick pace in this respect.”

jwood@thenational.ae