ABU DHABI-Escorted by four fighter jets, Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a rare one-day lightning tour to the Middle East during which he visited the United Arab Emirates before departing for Saudi Arabia. Putin landed on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, which is hosting the United Nations COP28 climate talks.
He was escorted to the presidential palace, where he was greeted with a 21-gun salute and a flyby of UAE military jets trailing smoke in the colours of the Russian flag. The Gulf nation’s President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan called Putin his “dear friend”.
“I am happy to meet you again,” Sheikh Mohammed said. He later issued a statement saying they discussed “the importance of strengthening dialogue and cooperation to ensure stability and progress”. The Russian leader echoed those sentiments.
“Our relations, largely due to your position, have reached an unprecedentedly high level,” Putin told Sheikh Mohammed. “The UAE is Russia’s main trading partner in the Arab world.” The meeting was part of Russia’s quest to stake out a more influential role in the Middle East, with oil cooperation and the Israel-Hamas war on the agenda.
The two leaders discussed, among other things, bilateral cooperation in the energy industry and advanced technologies, according to Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency. Putin then jetted off to Riyadh, where he will meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, TASS reported – their first face-to-face meeting since October 2019.
Putin’s meeting with the prince, known as MBS, came after oil prices fell, despite a pledge by OPEC+, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as well as allies led by Russia, to further reduce output. However, it was not immediately clear what Putin, who has rarely left Russia since the start of the Ukraine war, intended to raise specifically about oil or geopolitics with the crown prince of the world’s largest crude exporter