Cairo/Moscow, Dec 6 (EFE) – Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has rarely traveled abroad this year, made an exception and visited the Persian Gulf countries on Wednesday to discuss the situation in the Middle East with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Putin first met with President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Vice-president Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in Abu Dhabi, and then with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman at the Al Yamamah Royal Palace in Riyadh.
This was the Russian leader’s first trip to the Gulf region since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine.
Putin has warm relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, since they have remained neutral in the war in Ukraine, and because both countries have not ratified the statute that governs the International Criminal Court, there is no risk of the Russian president being arrested.
Putin traveled with a large delegation of high-ranking officials, including Central Bank chief Elvira Nabiullina, Russian Trade Minister Denis Manturov, top energy official Alexander Novak, and Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin’s strongman in Chechnya, as well as representatives of Russia’s major energy companies.
Gaza in the spotlight
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was one of the main focus of the Russian president’s trip.
On Wednesday morning in Abu Dhabi, Putin expressed his willingness to discuss the situation in the Middle East and the war in Ukraine during his meeting with the President of the United Arab Emirates, Bin Zayed.
In this regard, Bin Zayed noted that his country “supports the settlement of various conflicts in the world through dialogue and diplomatic methods in a way that enhances global peace and security,” according to the official news agency WAM.
During the meeting, Bin Zayed and Putin also agreed on the need for the international community to take measures to achieve a ceasefire, protect civilians and ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian enclave.
Later on Wednesday, Putin also touched on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at a meeting in Ryadh with Prince Bin Salman.
“Of course for all of us it’s very important now to exchange information and assessments of what is happening in the region,” Putin said.
Putin seeks allies in Arab world
As Vladimir Putin gears up for elections in 2024, he is keen to show that his country has not become isolated from the rest of the world because of the war in Ukraine.
On Wednesday, when he met with President Bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi, he called the United Arab Emirates “Russia’s main trading partner in the Arab world.”
A description that seems fitting, as the Gulf state has become a hub for Russian business and a channel to circumvent Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine.
According to Putin, the turnover of goods between Russia and the UAE increased by 68 percent in 2022, and the Russian leader stated that he believed “this year (the growth) will be even greater.”
In Saudi Arabia, Putin said at the start of a meeting in Riyadh with Crown Prince Bin Salman that relations with the country were at an “unprecedented level.”
“Nothing can prevent the development of our friendly relations,” Putin told MBS.
Meanwhile, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia mentioned the “great opportunities” for cooperation between the two countries, which “must work together for the interests of our people, the region and the entire world.”