By Arab News
A multimillion-dollar tranche of deals signed in Riyadh on Monday set the seal on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s first official visit to Saudi Arabia since 2012.
The 20 agreements covered oil and other energy industries, space and satellite navigation, justice, health services, tax administration, mineral wealth, tourism and aviation, along with cultural cooperation and the enhancement of trade relations.
The key deal was an agreement to increase cooperation in the OPEC+ group — the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, led by Saudi Arabia, plus 10 non-members led by Russia. Moscow has worked closely with OPEC to limit supply and stabilize prices after a 2014 slump.
Monday’s deal seeks to “reinforce cooperation … and strengthen oil market stability,” Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said at the signing ceremony.
Prince Abdulaziz said the two countries had begun a new phase of cooperation. “At the Saudi-Russian Joint Committee, we are working together to harmonize the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plans with its strategic objectives and Russia’s strategic development plans,” he said.
State-owned enterprises and the private sector in both countries would make a significant effort in achieving the goals of the new agreements, the minister said.
Earlier, Russian and Saudi flags lined the streets of Riyadh as Putin arrived at Al-Yamamah Palace in the capital, to be greeted by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a welcome ceremony with full military honors.
“Saudi Arabia values the active role that Russia is playing in the region and the world, and we look forward to working with you to establish security, stability and peace, to counter extremism and terrorism, and to promote economic growth,” the king told him.
“The joint investment and trade opportunities between the two countries that will be consolidated by many agreements, especially in the field of energy, will have significant positive results on the interests of our two countries and peoples.”
In response, Putin said King Salman’s visit to Russia in 2017 had contributed to the strengthening of relations and increased cooperation and trade between the two countries, and hailed the Kingdom’s important role in safeguarding global economic interests.
Putin highlighted the importance of Saudi-Russian coordination to ensure security and stability in the Middle East. “I am sure that without Saudi Arabia’s participation, it is impossible to secure sustainable development for any of the region’s problems,” he said.
The crown prince and the Russian president also chaired the inaugural meeting of the new Saudi-Russian Economic Committee, attended by high-level delegations of business and finance executives from both countries.
Later Putin held official talks with the crown prince, in which they discussed developments in Syria and Yemen, and “the importance of combating extremism and terrorism and working to dry up its sources,” a Saudi spokesman said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the talks as a “substantial exchange of opinions … on regional problems, on the situation in the energy markets, on oil prices.”
In the evening Putin attended a performance by Russia’s Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, and on Tuesday he travels to the UAE for talks with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.
Financial expert Mohammed Alsuwayed told Arab News that Russia was “an important strategic partner of Saudi Arabia,” and their joint efforts would help to manage the oil market.
Links with the Russian Direct Investment Fund were also valuable, Alsuwayed said. “The Russian sovereign wealth fund is interested in investing in Saudi Arabia. It has recently opened an office in the Kingdom as its first international fund office outside Russia, demonstrating a clear plan to invest in various sectors.”