President Vladimir Putin hailed ties with the Saudi leadership saying Russia has "very friendly personal relations" with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Putin's statements came in an interview with Al Arabiya broadcast on Sunday ahead of his visit to the Kingdom.
“We consider Saudi Arabia a friendly nation. I have very good relations with both the King [Salman bin Abdulaziz] and the Crown Prince [Mohammed bin Salman],” Putin told Al Arabiya.
“We have been making good headway practically in all fields,” he added, referring to progress in Saudi-Russian ties and joint economic projects.
Putin also condemned the attacks on Saudi Aramco oil facilities and suggested that seizing tankers and attacking oil infrastructure would not undermine positive Saudi-Russian relations.
“If anyone thinks that seizing tankers and attacking oil infrastructure can in any way affect cooperation between Russia and our Arab friends, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, that they can undermine or break down our cooperation with OPEC+, then they are profoundly wrong,” said Putin, addressing a question on regional security.
“On the contrary, we will forge ever-closer ties because our main goal is to stabilize global energy markets,” he added, saying that Russia remained committed to the initiatives of the OPEC+ group of oil producers driven by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Putin’s interview came ahead of his visit to Saudi Arabia on Monday.
He will be meeting King Salman and the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince, the Kremlin’s top foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov told journalists on Thursday.
Putin described his visit to the Kingdom as the return trip to King Salman’s “historic” visit to Moscow in 2017 and praised the upward trajectory of Saudi-Russian relations, citing a number of joint economic projects under development.
“Our Direct Investment Fund and the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia have jointly established a $10 billion platform. $2 billion have already been invested. Work is underway on other projects, and some promising and interesting projects have already been implemented.”
The PIF is Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and its largest vehicle of investment.
Putin also said that Sibur Holding, Russia’s largest petrochemical company, was exploring the possibility of building a petrochemical facility in Saudi Arabia with investments of more than $1 billion.
Putin went on to praise bilateral relations in defense and military cooperation, as well as regional cooperation.
“We are fostering a partnership in the trust-based, sensitive area of military and defense cooperation,” said Putin.
“I am confident that my visit will help to build up the momentum both in developing bilateral relations and enhancing cooperation in international organizations,” he added.
Aramco attacks and oil price
Putin condemned the attacks on Saudi Aramco facilities in September.
“We condemn any such actions, end of story. This is the official position … regardless of who stood behind the incident,” said Putin.
However, he reiterated that Russia would not point the finger at any one nation, despite the international community widely blaming Iran for the attacks.
When asked on how Russia, with its sophisticated intelligence apparatus and relations with Iran, could not know who was behind the Aramco attacks, Putin responded by insisting Russia did not know the perpetrator of the attacks.
Putin also said that he had discussed the incident with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Moscow was “ready to share anything that might be necessary, everything we have for a thorough investigation.”
Saudi Arabia invited international investigators to visit the site of the attacks in Abqaiq and Hijrat Khurais in September. Countries including the US, UK, France, and Germany attributed the attacks to Iran after the visit.
Putin added that the attacks had only a minimal impact on the price of oil.
“If someone may have wanted to deal a blow to the oil market, they failed. There were indeed some fluctuations in prices, but I do not think it was anything too serious, even though the initial response was quite strong,” said Putin.
“We need to respond to any attempt to destabilize the market. Russia will certainly continue working with Saudi Arabia and other partners and friends in the Arab world to counter any attempts to wreak havoc in the market,” he added.
Syria and regional cooperation
Putin also praised Saudi Arabia’s role in formulating a political settlement in Syria.
“I would like to emphasize the positive role Saudi Arabia has played in resolving the Syrian crisis … without Saudi Arabia’s contribution towards a Syrian settlement, it would have been impossible to achieve a positive trend,” said Putin, who thanked King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their “constructive approach.”
While Russia was close to Iran and Turkey, Putin acknowledged, the progress made in Syria required cooperation with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, he said.
Russia is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has supported his regime during the war in Syria.
Putin was also asked about Russia’s role in the Arabian Gulf. While he said that Moscow maintains “very friendly relations with all the countries in the region, including Iran and the Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” he downplayed its role as a mediator between Iran and the rest of the region.
Putin is set to arrive in Saudi Arabia on Monday, before traveling to the UAE on Tuesday.
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