In Moscow, Saudi King Demands Iran Stop Meddling in Middle East

Saudi Arabia has agreed to buy Russian S-400 air defence system, Saudi-owned al-Arabiya television reported on Thursday, on the sidelines of a visit by King Salman to Moscow.

The Dubai-based television channel also said that Saudi Arabia had signed a memorandum of understanding to help the kingdom in its efforts to develop its own military industries.

The details of the sale came after Salman told Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, that Iran must stop meddling in the Middle East, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.

“We emphasise that the security and stability of the Gulf region and the Middle East is an urgent necessity for achieving stability and security in Yemen,” Salman said, during a meeting in the Kremlin on Thursday,

“This would demand that Iran give up interference with the internal affairs of the region, to give up actions destabilising the situation in this region.”

Salman also said at the start of talks that the territorial integrity of Iraq must be preserved and that a political solution to the conflict in Syria must be found that keeps that country in one piece.

Salman added that he wants to see the creation of an international centre to fight terrorism under the aegis of the United Nations, and that he wants to see an independent Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem.

He also said there were opportunities to diversify economic cooperation with Russia as he signed an agreement creating a $1bn joint investment fund with Putin.

Opposite sides

While they are partners on the oil market, on the foreign policy front, Moscow and Riyadh are on opposite sides of the war in Syria, with Russia supporting President Bashar al-Assad while Saudi Arabia supports the opposition.

Salman and Putin are expected to discuss major defence and energy contracts, as well as extending oil production cuts ahead of the OPEC oil cartel meeting in November.

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

Members of OPEC, of which Saudi Arabia is the biggest producer, have joined with non-member Russia and other countries in cutting crude output in a pact that has helped prop up prices.

On Wednesday Putin said an extension of the OPEC deal was possible and could last “at least to the end of 2018”.

“Russian-Saudi contacts are important and their potential is rather great,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

“The political will of Moscow and Riyadh for deeper cooperation on the widest range of issues is clear,” he added.

Awkward start

The 81-year-old monarch’s three-day visit got off to an awkward start on Wednesday evening after landing at Moscow’s Vnukovo-2 airport when the escalator he uses to descend from his plane malfunctioned.

The escalator stopped midway, forcing the king to walk down himself, to be met by Russian officials including Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and a military brass band.

Salman arrived with a delegation of more than 1,000 people, reported Kommersant business daily.

Kommersant also said Putin and Salman are due to discuss an arms deal worth more than $3 billion (2.5 billion euros) to supply Riyadh with S-400 air defence systems.

Russian energy minister Alexander Novak told TASS news agency on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia is investing $1 billion into energy projects in Russia though he did not elaborate or specify whether these deals would be signed during the visit.

The Kremlin said ahead of the visit that Salman and Putin would also discuss “the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, especially focusing on conflict situations in the region.”

Epoch-making event?

The two diverge on both Syria – where more than 330,000 people have been killed since war erupted in 2011 – and Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been bombing Houthi rebels since 2015, drawing criticism from Moscow.

Putin visited Riyadh in 2007 and last met Salman in Turkey in 2015.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hailed Salman’s visit as “truly an epoch-making event in our relations,” in an interview published on Wednesday by the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.

Speaking the start of talks Putin said he had accepted an invitation from the king to travel to Saudi Arabia in a reciprocal visit.

Source: Middle East Eye

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