New Delhi: Saudi King Salman is all set to visit Russia on Thursday, Oct. 5, at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
King Salman will arrive in Russia in the next few days as the head of a high-powered delegation of key government and private-sector figures.
During his visit, the two leaders will discuss bilateral relations and ways of enhancing them in many areas of cooperation, as well as regional and international issues of common interest.
This visit is a first by a reigning Saudi monarch.
“Saudi Arabia plays an important role in Arab and inter-Arab affairs as one of the leaders of the Arab world. Our main hope is that this visit will give new impetus to the development of bilateral relations, because the potential of our relationship is much richer than the de facto situation,” Putin’s spokesperson Dimitry Peskov said.
“Certainly, Russia is interested in maintaining a dialogue, including a discussion of the situation in the Middle East and in Syria in particular,” he said.
Saudi Arabia and Russia have also planned to set up a $1bn fund to invest in energy projects, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak stated in an interview broadcast by Al Arabiya TV on Monday.
The fund was part of efforts by two of the world’s biggest oil producers to expand cooperation, he said.
Saudi Arabia, the biggest oil producer in the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and Russia helped forge a deal between OPEC and other producers to cut output by 1.8 million barrels per day from January to lift crude prices.
Saudi Arabia and Russia are allies in the global oil market but they are backing the opposite sides in the Syrian civil war. While Moscow is supporting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, Riyadh is backing the opposition.
The Saudis and other Gulf powers are wary of Iran’s role in Syria and they want Russia to reduce the Iranian influence in the war-ravaged country, where Hezbollah and other Shiite militias supported by Tehran have provided shock troops for Assad’s offensive.
Yemen is another potential point of disagreement between Riyadh and Moscow as the Saudi-led coalition has been bombing Houthi rebels since 2015, drawing sharp criticism from Moscow.
At present, Russia is a major and active player in the Middle East and holds the United States responsible for the chaos unfolding in the region. Russia has become a dependable partner in the Middle East as the power balance is shifting in the region. The U.S. policy makers are preoccupied with Asia and the Middle Eastern leaders see Russia as a dependable partner which is serious about the ongoing crisis in the region. The Israelis and Turks, the Egyptians and Jordanians are hoping that Kremlin can secure their interests and fix their problems.