The visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Saudi Arabia and the UAE amid groundbreaking developments in Syria is a sign of the ongoing shift of the balance of power in the Middle East.
The October 14 visit became Putin’s first visit to Saudi Arabia since 2007. The Russian Preasident greeted top Saudi officials and held a meeting with King Salman. Mainstream media outlets already described the visit as a worrying signal of the strengthening relations between Russia and ‘traditional US allies’.
“We look forward to working with Russia to achieve security and stability and fight terrorism,” King Salman said.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s de facto leader, also greeted Putin and met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported that the sides discussed the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
Saudi Arabia and Russia signed 20 agreements between, most memoranda of understanding in the fields of energy, petrochemicals, transport and artificial intelligence. However, no notable deals were announced.
Putin’s visit to Saudi Arabia was also marked by a ‘dodgy rendition’ of the Russian national anthem at the Saudi royal palace by a Saudi military orchestra.
The UAE, which is involved in an apparent diplomatic and economic conflict with Saudi Arabia for the leadership among Gulf states, contributed much more efforts to showcase its positive attitude towards Russia, when President Putin came to the country on October 15.
During the visit, the Russian leader discussed with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan the state of affairs in the Middle East as well as the burgeoning bilateral cooperation.
— RT (@RT_com) October 15, 2019
The sides discussed the situation in Syria, Libya and Yemen, as well as the growing tensions in the Persian Gulf. Another topic is the cooperation on nuclear energy as Russia has been supplying fuel for Barakah, the UAE’s first nuclear power plant.
Meanwhile, Russia and the UAE are planning to hold an annual exhibition aimed at promoting industrial companies and services. The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and the UAE Mubadala investment company have already implemented over 45 deals worth $2.3 billion and plan to increase their investment portfolio to $7 billion.
Warplanes have painted the air in the colors of the Russian flagpic.twitter.com/688NJIvylR
— EHA News (@eha_news) October 15, 2019
Emirati road police were colored as those of Russia in a sign of respect to the Russian leader:
До чего могут дойти знаки уважения: Кортеж Путина по Эмиратом ведут машины дорожной полиции с кириллической надписью ДПС pic.twitter.com/1fRc6Npm4J
— Дмитрий Смирнов (@dimsmirnov175) October 15, 2019
Since the start of the Russian military operation in Syria in 2015, Russia has returned to the Middle East as one of the key players and an influential mediator in local conflicts. The ongoing developments in northern Syria, where Moscow, Ankara and Washington appear to have find a way how to settle their differences without a direct military confrontation, is just another example of this situation. Turkey’s miltiary opeartion in fact pushed the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces to the deal with the Syrian government, while the Trump administration finally got a pretext to turn into reality a promise to withdraw troops from the war-torn country.
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