Putin Arrives in Saudi Arabia for Talks on Oil, Iran

New oil agreements are planned as part of Vladimir Putin’s visit to Saudi Arabia on Monday, as the Russian president will try to use his influence to defuse rising tensions in the Gulf, VOA News in Russian reports.

Oil will be “the main topic of discussion” between the leaders, Russian political analyst Fydor Lukyanov told AFP, as a deal between the 24 members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is due to expire next spring.

Moscow and Riyadh — a traditional ally of Washington — have made a striking rapprochement in recent years, marked in particular by King Salman’s first visit to Russia in October 2017. The meeting with the Saudi king and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, comes following attacks on Saudi oil installations that Riyadh and the US have blamed on Iran, an ally of Moscow.

Russia is not a member of OPEC, headed by Saudi Arabia, but it has worked closely with the group to limit supply and push up prices after a 2014 slump that badly hit the Russian economy.

In an interview with Arabic-language television channels ahead of his visit, Putin praised his good relations with the King and Crown Prince.

“We will absolutely work with Saudi Arabia and our other partners and friends in the Arab world… to reduce to zero any attempt to destabilize the oil market,” he said in the interview broadcast Sunday.

Analyst Lukyanov said that Moscow — with its older ties to Iran as new links with Saudi — could “play the role of peacemaker” as tensions between Tehran and Riyadh continue to rise.

These tensions spiked last month after the attacks on Saudi oil facilities that initially halved the kingdom’s crude output and set oil markets alight.

Yemen’s Huthi rebels claimed responsibility, but US officials blamed Iran and said the rebels did not have the range or sophistication to target the facilities. Tehran has denied involvement and warned of “total war” in the event of any attack on its territory.

Russia attempted to keep a foot in both camps — proposing missiles to Riyadh to defend itself, while at the same time warning against “hasty conclusions” regarding Iranian involvement.

“As far as Russia is concerned, we will do everything possible to create the necessary conditions for a positive dynamic” aimed at easing tensions, Putin said in the interview broadcast Sunday.