(Bloomberg) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in the United Arab Emirates to start a rare foreign trip that will also include a visit to Saudi Arabia, with bolstering cooperation among strategic oil producers a top priority.
Putin was greeted by senior officials from the country upon exiting the plane in Abu Dhabi Wednesday, according to a broadcast on Russian state TV.
The Russian leader will meet ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and later fly to Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh to hold talks with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, according to the Kremlin. His first visit to the two countries since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 coincides with talks on reducing fossil fuel use at the COP28 summit hosted by the UAE in Dubai.
At the center of discussions in Riyadh will be Russia’s role in OPEC+, the Saudi-led alliance between the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other major oil producers, which last week agreed to extend and deepen production cuts to bolster prices.
Read More: OPEC+ Cuts Can ‘Absolutely’ Stay Past March, Saudi Minister Says
“This shows that Russia is not isolated internationally and has a large number of partners and friends in different parts of the world,” said Andrey Kortunov, research director of the Kremlin-founded Russian International Affairs Council. “The Persian Gulf is one of the regions where we can demonstrate this most effectively.”
Middle East Win
The talks also offer an opportunity for the Middle East countries, allowing US ally Abu Dhabi to highlight it has “good relations with everybody,” said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a UAE-based political expert. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that Putin wouldn’t attend the COP28 summit while there.
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is looking to the Russian leader to cement OPEC+ coordination, he said, after the agreement to cut production by 2.2 million barrels a day in the first quarter.
While the alliance’s talks were marred by delays due to an internal disagreement between Saudi Arabia and Angola and Nigeria, officials from Moscow and Riyadh projected an image of close cooperation and mutual trust during the process.
Read More: Russia Punches an $11 Billion Hole in Oil Sanctions Regime
Saudi Arabia has faith that Moscow will implement its share of the output cuts, Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Monday. In comments to state-run Tass news agency on Tuesday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak echoed the kingdom’s position, saying OPEC+ stands ready to take further action if required.
Putin is also expected to discuss Israel’s offensive on Hamas in Gaza, which has been running since the militant group’s Oct. 7 attack that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians. The fighting has created a wedge between the US, which supports Israel, and Arab nations including Saudi Arabia due to the thousands of Palestinian deaths and the deepening humanitarian crisis.
Read More: Israel Grinds War South as US Monitors Gaza Civilian Deaths
Moscow supports Riyadh’s push for an immediate cease-fire and the eventual creation of a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish one. On Thursday, Putin will host Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, whose country backs Hamas, which is designated a terrorist organization by the US and European Union.
The Gulf tour is also a sign that the Russian leader is becoming more confident to appear on the global stage almost two years into his war on Ukraine, with Kyiv struggling to regain territory amid signs of Western fatigue and a US dispute over funding for its support.
Read More: White House Warns Nearly ‘Out of Time’ to Get Ukraine Funds
Putin has limited his trips mainly to close allies since he ordered troops into Ukraine, triggering a raft of international sanctions, including on its crude exports. The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against him in March for alleged war crimes, further complicating travel outside his country. Neither Saudi Arabia nor the UAE have signed onto the ICC.
(Updates with more detail on Putin’s arrival from the second paragraph.)
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