Saudi king's visit to Moscow highlights Russia's role in Middle East

Posted October 09, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted USA ally King Salman of Saudi Arabia for talks at the Kremlin this week, cementing a relationship that is pivotal for world oil prices and possibly signaling a shift in Middle East politics. "This is first visit to Russian Federation by King of Saudi Arabia in history of bilateral relations", Putin said after interview with King Selman in Moscow.

"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. During the cold war, the Saudis helped arm Afghan rebels fighting against the Soviet invasion.

That is nearly as much as major OPEC member Iran produces.

But OPEC - led by Saudi Arabia, which holds the world's largest oil reserves - and Russian Federation, a non-OPEC member which nonetheless is a major oil producer, recently reached a broad agreement on production cuts across OPEC and non-OPEC states created to push prices back up. Mr Putin expressed hope that it would boost ties between the two countries.

Saudi Arabia has officially been calling for an ouster of Assad, while Russian Federation says the future of Syria and the political future of Assad should only be determined by the Syrian people.

Shiite powerhouse Iran and Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia are regional foes.

Putin said the agreement to cut oil production previous year between OPEC and non-OPEC countries could be extended beyond March 2018 but an announcement was unlikely before the next OPEC meeting in Vienna at the end of November. Reports suggest plush carpets were also brought in by Saudi officials to make the stay a comfortable one.

"We have held detailed talks behind closed doors to talk about bilateral relations and the situation in the region", Putin said after the meeting.

Al Arabiya has announced that Saudi Arabia and Russian Federation agree to purchase S-400 missile defence system.

Falih was speaking in Moscow two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin said it was possible that the supply reduction deal, which is due to expire in March, could run to the end of next year, although Russia has not made any commitment.

However, the agenda also included issues on which the two sides deeply differ, including the war in Syria. It is being treated as the highest level state visit.

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

Saudi-U.S. ties were strained under the Obama administration over its backing of a nuclear agreement with Iran and its handling of the Syrian conflict.