Oil, technology, diplomacy: Putin in Riyadh strengthens Russian influence in the Middle East

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The visit paved the way for the signing of 30 agreements and economic and commercial contracts. The Kremlin wants to involve Riyadh for a political solution to the Syrian conflict. The objective of guaranteeing the “stability” of oil on the markets. After the Saudis, today Putin meets the leaders of the Emirates.

Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Strengthening collaboration in the energy sector, with a particular focus on oil, technology and infrastructure, and opening a new dialogue front to resolve the many crises underway in the Middle East. These are the points at the center of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s one-day visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he met King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Mbs).

In terms of business, the visit of the leader of the Kremlin paves the way for the signing of around 30 economic, commercial and strategic agreements and contracts between the two countries. Of these, a dozen concern the field of advanced technology, energy and infrastructure; the contracts will be signed by the Russian sovereign fund for a value of about two billion dollars.

The Kremlin strategic adviser Yuri Ushakov reports that, among other points at the center of the interview, there was also the war in Syria, which has dragged on for eight years now and still appears far from a long-term solution.

Russia and Iran support President Basharl al-Assad, while the Saudis flank the rebel and opposition groups (some of which are close to the jihadist galaxy) fighting against Damascus. “It is important for Russia – Ushakov emphasizes – that an Arab nation participates in the political agreement in Syria”, today in the hands of Moscow, Ankara and Tehran with talks in Astana.

During an official ceremony in Riyadh, Putin and King Salman signed a series of multimillion-dollar investment contracts that also cover the aerospace industry, culture, health and the agricultural sector. However, one of the key points remains the pact to strengthen cooperation between the nations of the so-called OPEC + (which includes Moscow and nine other countries that are not part of OPEC). In the recent past, the Kremlin played an essential role by working with the group to limit supplies and encourage a recovery in prices after the collapse of 2014.

Yesterday’s signatures are intended to “strengthen collaboration […] and strengthen the stability of oil on the markets” said Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Saudi oil minister, during the official ceremony. Putin then added that Russia “attaches particular importance to the development of friendly and mutual benefit ties with Saudi Arabia”.

Moscow and Riyadh, a traditional ally of the United States, have surprisingly revived ties in recent years, starting with King Salman’s first visit to Russia in October 2017. According to Russian political analyst Fyodor Lukyanov the Kremlin, with its ties historians with Iran and new ones with the Saudis, could play a “peacemaker” role in the tensions between the two Muslim powers, Shiite and Sunni, in the Middle East. After visiting Riyadh yesterday, today Putin will be in the United Arab Emirates where he will meet Abu Dhabi’s crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

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