Russia’s Putin, Saudi crown prince discuss further OPEC+ cooperation on whirlwind trip

  • Cooperation within OPEC+ to continue
  • A meeting with MbS in Moscow was postponed amid the oil producer split
  • Putin meets Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in the United Arab Emirates
  • Oil, OPEC+, Gaza, Ukraine on agenda for rare foreign trip
  • Putin will host the Iranian president on Thursday

RIYADH, Dec 6 (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed further cooperation on oil prices as OPEC+ members on Wednesday, a Kremlin spokesman was quoted as saying.

A Saudi account of the meeting said the crown prince praised joint coordination between the two countries that had “helped defuse tensions in the Middle East.”

Hours after the Kremlin leader visited Saudi Arabia’s Gulf neighbor, the United Arab Emirates, Putin, the de facto ruler of the world’s biggest crude oil exporter, and the crown prince held emergency talks.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, quoted by Russian news agencies, said cooperation would continue within OPEC+, which includes the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies led by Russia.

The meeting comes after oil prices plunged despite an OPEC+ pledge to cut production further.

“We spoke again about cooperation in OPEC+,” Peskov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. “The parties agree that our countries bear a great responsibility to communicate in order to maintain the international energy market at an appropriate level, in a stable, predictable state.”

Putin, who has rarely left Russia since sending troops to Ukraine in February 2022, was also expected to discuss the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza.

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The Saudi Press Agency quoted the crown prince as saying: “We share many interests and many files that work together for the benefit of Russia, Saudi Arabia, the Middle East and the world.”

At the start of their talks, shown earlier on Russian television, Putin thanked MbS, as the crown prince is widely known, for his invitation. He originally expected to come to Moscow, “but there were changes in plans”.

Their next meeting should take place in Moscow, he said, adding that “nothing can stop the development of our friendly relations”.

Russia’s Defense Ministry earlier showed the Kremlin leader’s Ilyushin-96 plane flanked by Sukhoi-35S fighter jets on a flight from Russia to the United Arab Emirates.

Putin’s delegation includes oil, economy, foreign affairs, space and nuclear officials and business leaders.

On his first stop in Abu Dhabi, President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan welcomed his “dear friend” while UAE jets followed the colors of the Russian flag.

“Our relations, largely because of your position, have reached an unprecedented high,” Putin told him. “The United Arab Emirates is Russia’s main trading partner in the Arab world.”

Putin said Russia and the United Arab Emirates cooperated as part of OPEC+, whose members pump more than 40% of the world’s oil, and said they would discuss the Israeli-Hamas conflict and Ukraine.

His first face-to-face talk with MbS since October 2019 came just days after an OPEC+ meeting was delayed by disagreements – preempting what should have been a visit by MbS to Moscow.

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Putin last visited the region in July 2022 when he met Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Iran. The Russian president was scheduled to host Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi in Moscow on Thursday.

close relationships

Putin and MbS, who together control about a fifth of the oil pumped every day, have long enjoyed a close relationship, though sometimes shunned by the West.

At the 2018 G20 summit, two months after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi embassy, ​​Putin and MbS high-fived and shook hands with smiles.

MbS has sought to reposition Saudi Arabia as a regional power, with little respect for the United States, which supplies Riyadh with most of its weapons.

Amid Western efforts to isolate Moscow, Putin says Russia is locked in an existential war with the West and has courted allies across the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Both MbS and Putin want higher prices for oil, the lifeblood of their economies. The question is how much of the burden each should bear for raising prices — and how to check their contributions.

Last month, OPEC+ delayed a meeting by several days due to disagreements over production levels. The Saudi energy minister said OPEC+ would also need further assurances from Moscow that it would fulfill its pledge to cut fuel exports.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Russia in OPEC+ have been uneasy at times. A deal to cut exports almost broke down in March 2020, but they were able to make up within weeks, and OPEC+ agreed to record nearly 10% cuts in global demand.

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Additional Report of Yomna Ehab in Cairo; Editing by Alexander Smith, Ron Popsky and Lisa Schumacher

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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