Riyadh – Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed trade, investments and oil with Saudi King Salman on Monday during his first visit to the kingdom in more than a decade.
Putin’s talks in Saudi Arabia are part of a two-day visit to the Gulf aimed at attracting investment in Russia’s struggling economy.
Russia’s economy has been crippled in recent years by sanctions related to its conflict with Ukraine and by low prices for oil, a major Russian export.
Russia appears unable to meet its 3-per-cent growth estimate for gross domestic product this year.
“Last year bilateral trade rose 15 per cent, exceeding a billion dollars,” Putin said, after an official ceremony held at the Yamama Palace in Riyadh.
The ceremony was also attended by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Trade rose another 38 per cent over the first seven months of this year, the president added.
He noted that Russia intends to continue its involvement in OPEC under the format of OPEC-Plus, where Russia has worked with the organization to reduce supplies of oil in an effort to raise prices.
Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter and an important member of the OPEC oil cartel. It has been leading the effort to drive up global oil prices.
Putin’s visit to Riyadh is “a great opportunity to strengthen and deepen the bonds of friendship and ties between the two countries and to agree on political positions and views,” Salman said during the meeting.
He added that talks were focusing on achieving security and stability, efforts to counter extremism and terrorism, and promoting economic growth.
On the sidelines of the visit around 400 Russian and Saudi businessmen and officials attended an economic forum in Riyadh, where the two sides made 17 agreements in several sectors, including energy, petrochemicals and transport, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
Russia’s sovereign wealth fund was expected to ink deals amounting to more than 2 billion dollars with Saudi partners, it said in a statement.
Russian state media reported that the Saudi side was seeking Russia’s assistance for the launch of a satellite from Saudi territory.
On Tuesday, Putin is to head to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to discuss trade and investment with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, according to statements by Putin’s office.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been seeking to diversify their economies away from oil dependency since prices for the commodity waned because of a global supply glut.