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News, October 2019
Putin's Visits to Saudi Arabia and UAE Reflects Rising Russian Influence in the Middle East
October 15, 2019
UAE and Russia sign deals worth $1.3bn during Putin's Abu Dhabi visit
Putin was greeted by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed with a 21-gun salute Deals focussed on energy, advanced technology and health sectors
15 October 2019, Arab News
Vladmir Putin signed deals worth more than $1.3 billion with the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday as his Gulf tour came to an end in Abu Dhabi.
The Russian President arrived in the UAE’s capital earlier in the day, following his visit to Saudi Arabia where he met King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh.
Putin was greeted by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, at the Presidential Airport with a 21-gun salute.
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed with Russian President Vladimir Putin during arrival honors. (AFP)
He then arrived at the Presidential Palace Qasr Al-Watan where there was an official welcoming ceremony.
The pair struck six agreements, including one on shared investments between Russia’s sovereign wealth fund and the Emirati investment fund Mubadala.
Deals worth more than $1.3 billion, notably in the energy, advanced technology and health sectors, were tabled during Putin's visit, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF).
“You will not be disappointed by your Russian partners,” Putin said as he arrived.
Sheikh Mohammed tweeted: “This historic visit reflects the strength of UAE-Russia relations, which we will continue to jointly promote at all levels for the mutual benefit of our nations.”
“Among the Gulf countries, the UAE is the leader in terms of trade with Russia,” Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters ahead of the Gulf tour.
In 2018, commerce between the two countries tabled some $1.7 billion.
As Putin made his way to the presidential palace, jets painted the sky white, blue and red - the colours of the Russian flag - and cannons fired a ceremonial salute.
The streets of Abu Dhabi were lined with Emirati and Russian flags, while road signs that usually display traffic warnings instead greeted Putin in Arabic and Russian.
Putin and Sheikh Mohammed also met Emirati astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori, who last month became the first Arab to reach the International Space Station on board a Russian rocket.
“We are ready to continue providing all the necessary assistance to the United Arab Emirates in the space sector,” Putin told Sheikh Mohammed.
In the build up to his visit Abu Dhabi lit up its famous landmarks with colors of the Russian flag to mark Putin’s return to the UAE, his first official visit since 2007.
ADNOC’s headquarters at the Abu Dhabi Corniche was displaying at its facade a huge LED portrait of Putin and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed in a firm handshake – apparently taken during the latter’s visit to Moscow in 2017 – as well as the Russian flag.
Other landmarks that also draped their buildings with Russia’s flag colors were Emirates Palace, Marina Mall, Khalifa University, Capital Gate Hotel, Abu Dhabi Global Market and the UAE Cultural Foundation.
“The visit reflects the strong overall strategic partnership between the two countries and will enhance their cooperation in vital sectors,” Sergei Kuznetsov, the Russian ambassador to the UAE, earlier said, adding that the visit will strengthen the relations between the two countries, especially in light of their strategic partnership.
Kuznetsov also stressed that the Russian president’s visit to the UAE represented a marked progress in the bilateral relations between the two countries.
Raft of multimillion-dollar deals seal Putin’s visit to Saudi Arabia
King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcome Russian leader at Al-Yamamah Palace 20 deals of cooperation were signed between the two countries
15 October 2019 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.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting. (Sputnik/AFP)
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.
King Salman welcomes the Russian President Vladimir Putin to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Sputnik/Reuters)
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.”
Putin in Saudi Arabia amid US Regional Influence Downswing
October 15, 2019
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived on Monday in Saudi Arabia amid signs the US is losing its position in the West Asia region.
The visit to the Arab kingdom comes for the first time in over a decade amid fast-moving regional developments.
The visit is part of Putin’s regional tour, which would take him to the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, to discuss topics of common interests with the leaders of the two Gulf countries.
He was received by Riyadh Governor Prince Faisal bin Bander bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
Earlier in the day, Saudi State Minister for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir described the Russian leader’s visit to the oil-rich monarchy as “historic,” noting the visit will witness the signing of various agreements between the two countries.
The visit comes while Washington, and Trump in particular, is losing its influence as a superpower in the region and mainly among Arab allies who see it a must to diversify their allies and make new friends.
The bilateral business exchange boost is expected to be high on the agenda of the president with the Saudi leaders.
The two sides will also discuss a string of cases including the regional tensions, the Syrian crisis and also the Saudi will to procure Russian arms including the state-of-the-art S-400 Russian missile defense that has become a point of focus of a number of regional buyers.
What does the visit mean at the present time?
The visit to the oil-wealthy Arab kingdom means a lot to Russia and signals that the US is no longer the single player in the West Asia setting. Russia over the past few years showed every possible sign of being a new heavyweight in the region.
It opened its influence gain process by sending forces to Syria, where it backed, along with Iran, its ally President Bashar al-Assad. Its gains continued as it announced the defeat of ISIS in Syria along with the allies in 2017.
Its ongoing influence gain developed an appetite among the Arab states to engage in friendship with it. Russia’s Syria campaign distanced Moscow from its post-Soviet stagnation and introduced it to the club of clout holders in the region and even the world.
Saudi Arabia, among others, engaged in coordination with Russia in oil markets. Since last year, the two took almost all of their oil production steps in close coordination. The Saudis also expressed their hope to get S-400 missile defense system. They talked to the Russian about the long-range interceptors. Last month attack by Yemen with drones and missiles on Saudi oil giant Aramco’s oil facilities in response to the regular bombardment of Yemeni cities even added to the urgency of the missile defense procurement amid US-built systems’ failure.
The visit comes while Trump is pressuring the Arab allies, and mainly Saudi Arabia, to pay the costs of the American presence in the region. Yesterday, the US said it will deploy 3,000 forces to Saudi Arabia and missile defenses and warplanes and Riyadh will pay for the deployment.
But this deployment may not look serious to the allies. Trump repeatedly says it does not want a presence in the region, a comment received by the Arab rulers as a sign Washington is no longer a reliable ally but simply is an extorter.
They have enough reasons to justify this notion. On Wednesday, Turkey launched an attack on the Syrian Kurds. President Trump, a day before the operation, said he removed his forces from the Kurdish-controlled regions, giving the Washington-allied Kurdish groups a feeling of betrayal.
A feeling of potential betrayal is growing big among the Arab sides. Russia may be an alternative and a remedy to such a sense. Moscow sealed a deal with the Kurds who sought Syrian protection against the Turkish offensive.
Moscow, amid regional conflicts, has become a magnet for help seekers and those humiliated and abandoned by the US. Here Saudi Arabia and the Kurds make a big example. Moscow is the ally of hard times and the alliance with Syria and helping it to win a vicious war against terrorism bears witness to this in the mind of the Saudi rulers. Saudi Arabia finds this attractive while the US behaves as if the kingdom is a burden.
This over time will leave the Americans devoid of real partners while Russia attracts US Arab allies one after another.
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