Warm Welcome in the Arabian Peninsula: Putin Holds Talks in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh

07 December 2023

Russian President Vladimir Putin undertook a one-day visit to Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, marking his return since 2019. In the UAE, he was received by President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and in Saudi Arabia, by Crown Prince and Chairman of the Council of Ministers Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud.


The majority of talks in both countries, except for initial protocol conversations, were held behind closed doors. Nevertheless, the reception organized for Putin and the statements made by Arab leaders underscored the elevated level of relations and numerous promising areas of cooperation.


Putin's visit occurred amidst the active phase of the two-month-long Palestinian-Israeli conflict, shortly after the OPEC+ meeting where another voluntary cut in oil production was agreed upon, and just prior to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi's scheduled visit to Moscow.


TASS has compiled the key information known about Putin's talks in the Arabian Peninsula.


Solemn meeting in the UAE


Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov informed reporters that during the flight to Abu Dhabi, the primary aircraft was accompanied by Su-35 fighter jets equipped with "standard armaments of various classes." He stated, "Special overflight permits were secured from the states over whose territory the flight occurred for the aviation escort of the presidential plane. We express our gratitude to these states for their cooperation," added the Kremlin spokesman.


In Abu Dhabi, Putin received a grand welcome, marked by fighter jets soaring the Russian tricolor over the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The route leading to the Qasr al-Watan Palace (Palace of the Nation) was adorned with the flags of both countries. Mohammed bin Zayed personally greeted the Russian president at the main entrance.


Economy and international agenda


In the public segment of the meeting, Putin acknowledged the "unprecedentedly high" level of bilateral relations, with the UAE president underscoring Putin's personal role in their enhancement. Putin referred to the Emirates as Russia's primary trade partner in the Arab world, anticipating that this year's trade turnover growth would surpass the previous year's figure of 67.7%. Mohammed bin Zayed highlighted his country's significant investments in the Russian economy.


Putin commended the UAE's efforts as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council to stabilize the global situation. Discussions in Abu Dhabi encompassed various topics, including the situations in Ukraine and the Middle East. Putin also mentioned Russia's upcoming chairmanship of BRICS in 2024, inviting continued collaboration with the UAE within the BRICS framework and anticipating their participation in the summit in Kazan next October.


Negotiations in Riyadh


Upon Putin's arrival in Riyadh, the atmosphere was characterized by darkness and a pleasant temperature of 23 degrees Celsius. The Russian leader traveled in his Aurus to Al-Yamamah Palace, where he was welcomed at the entrance by the Saudi crown prince.


"Nothing can hinder the development of our friendly relations," stated the Russian president at the start of the talks. He recalled that the Soviet Union was among the first countries to recognize Saudi Arabia, highlighting that the two countries have had "a lot of things" in their relations. However, in the last seven years, they "have acquired such a quality and reached a level that they never had before."


Mohammed bin Salman warmly welcomed Putin as "a dear and special guest on Saudi soil" and underscored the potential for collaboration: "We have significant opportunities ahead, through which we can undertake crucial initiatives for the benefit of the entire world."


In his introductory statements, Putin extended an invitation to the crown prince for a return visit to Moscow, to which Mohammed bin Salman responded affirmatively, stating, "Undoubtedly, I will come."

Fertilizers and beyond


According to Mohammed bin Salman, Riyadh and Moscow are effectively cooperating in strengthening economic ties: "Over the past few years, we have achieved great results... including in energy, agriculture, trade, investment, and other spheres."


Putin, in particular, discussed the prospects for collaboration in the fertilizer market. When introducing members of his delegation to the Crown Prince, he also mentioned businessman Dmitry Mazepin, who "deals with fertilizers." The Russian president added, "There is a chance to create a significant joint venture."


Putin's talks in Riyadh lasted longer than in Abu Dhabi—about three hours compared to about two.


Deepening cooperation


Putin and the Saudi crown prince continued their one-on-one communication over lunch after the talks involving delegations. "The parties thoroughly compared positions on issues of mutual interests," Peskov told reporters following the Russian leader's visit.


"There are a number of specific plans to deepen cooperation" between the two countries in OPEC+. Additionally, Peskov said Moscow and Riyadh will continue investment cooperation "despite the actions of foes." Putin and Mohammed bin Salman also discussed "sensitive issues on the international agenda" and the situation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict zone, which "is of deep concern."


Russian and Saudi diplomats are preparing a final document based on the results of the talks held in Riyadh, but it does not envision any "peace initiatives." The date of the crown prince's visit will be worked out through diplomatic channels.


Peskov also commented on the results of the virtual summit of the G7: sanctions on diamonds were not news, Russian companies are aware of the risks; the United States is conflicted about burning money "in the furnace" of Ukraine.



GSV "Russia - Islamic World"

Photo: official website of the President of the Russian Federation

Based on materials from TASS