Putin Hails ‘Unprecedented Partnership’ with Saudi Arabia ahead of Riyadh Visit
Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the role played by Saudi Arabia in regional affairs, most notably in resolving the crisis in Syria.
Ahead of a much-anticipated visit to the Kingdom on Monday, he underscored the important transformation in relations with the Kingdom, stressing that his trip will develop them even further.
The Russian leader is set to hold talks in Saudi Arabia with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz. This marks Putin’s first visit to the Kingdom in 12 years. He is scheduled to visit the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday.
In remarks to Al Arabiya, Sky News and Russia Today on the eve of his visit, Putin hailed the “very good” relations he enjoys with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.
“In Soviet times, relations between Saudi Arabia and the Soviet Union were at a rather low level. In recent years, the quality of our relations has changed dramatically. We consider Saudi Arabia a friendly nation,” he stated.
He spoke of activating joint efforts to resolve regional crises, lauding Saudi Arabia’s positive role in resolving the conflict in Syria.
“We are working especially closely with Turkey and Iran, as you all know. But I believe that without Saudi Arabia’s contribution towards a Syrian settlement, it would have been impossible to achieve a positive trend. Therefore, I would like to express our gratitude to both the King and the Crown Prince for this constructive approach. I am confident that my visit will help to build up the momentum both in developing bilateral relations and enhancing cooperation in international organizations,” Putin said.
On the economy, he said that several files and domains help bolster relations with Saudi Arabia.
“We have been making good headway practically in all fields. I will start with the economy. There is still a lot to be done, but we have set a good pace. Last year it was up 15%. In the first six months of 2019 growth was as high as 38%,” he added.
“We are considering some good joint projects. Our Direct Investment Fund and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia have jointly established a $10 billion platform and $2 billion have already been invested,” he revealed.
“Work is underway on other projects, and some promising and interesting projects have already been implemented. We also consider it possible to operate on the territory of Saudi Arabia. One of our companies is exploring the possibility of building a petrochemical facility with investments of more than $1 billion,” said Putin.
Addressing the September 14 attack against Saudi Aramco’s Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities, Putin said that Russia officially condemns such acts.
“Such actions never yield any results for anyone, including those who plot and execute them. Why? If someone may have wanted to deal a blow to the oil market, they failed,” he stressed.
“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. The prices went back to normal in the very first week, because the fundamental factors that the market depends on will never allow the prices to either skyrocket or take a nosedive.”
Asked about Iran’s possible involvement in the attacks, he replied that Tehran “has nothing to do with this,” citing a meeting he held recently with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
“As I said, we have an unprecedented level of partnership, I would even say friendly relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE. But Russia will never be friends with one country against another. We build bilateral relations that rely on positive trends generated by our contacts; we do not build alliances against anyone,” he continued.
Moreover, he noted that Iran is a regional power, adding: “If we want to build good relations with a country - and I believe every country in the region would want to have good relations with each other, no one seeks a standoff or, perish the thought, any conflict.”
“If we want to set a positive agenda, we need to acknowledge that our partners have their own legitimate interests,” Putin said.
Turning to Iran’s nuclear file and the possibility to hold new negotiations over its nuclear program, he remarked: “There is the JCPOA or the Iran nuclear deal, which specifies certain limits and commitments for Iran, and Iran has accepted them.”
“There is disagreement between Iran and Israel, Iran and the US. I believe that attempts must be made to settle those disagreements, to seek a way out of the complicated situations that we observe today,” he continued.
“As for the missile program, I suppose the issue can and should be part of the discussion too. The missile program is one thing, and the nuclear program is something different. It does not imply that the missile program should not be part of the conversation, especially since it raises certain concerns. There is a place for discussion, but let us not mix apples and oranges here; otherwise, all the progress that has been made could be totally lost,” he stated.