RIYADH (Dispatches) – Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived on Monday in the Saudi capital of Riyadh for an official visit to the kingdom, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The visit is part of Putin's regional tour, which would take him to the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, to discuss topics of common interests with the leaders of the two Persian Gulf countries.
The Russian president was received by Riyadh Governor Prince Faisal bin Bander bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
Earlier in the day, Saudi State Minister for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir described the visit of Putin to the kingdom as "historic," noting the visit will witness the signing of various agreements between the two countries.
By visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time in over a decade, Putin signaled Moscow’s growing Middle East clout, buoyed by Russian military gains in Syria, strong ties with Riyadh’s regional rivals and energy cooperation.
Moscow accrued power in the Middle East in 2015 by sending troops to Syria, where it and Iran have been key backers of President Bashar al-Assad amid the foreign-backed war, while the United States pulled back. Saudi Arabia sided with the terrorists in Syrian.
On the eve of Putin’s trip, U.S. troops were abruptly retreating from northern Syria as Russian-backed government forces deployed deep inside Kurdish-held territory under a deal to help fend off a Turkish cross-border offensive.
The Russian president, accompanied by his energy minister and head of Russia’s wealth fund, met King Salman at his palace along with de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with whom Putin says he has friendly relations.
Deepening ties have seen non-OPEC Russia, once regarded as a rival in oil markets, join OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia in forming an alliance known as OPEC+ to support crude prices by restraining output.
At a morning forum convening 300 Saudi and Russian CEOs, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said OPEC+ countries were showing high commitments to the deal, and his Russian counterpart said there were no talks underway to change it.
Ahead of the visit, Putin offered to provide Russian defense systems to the kingdom after Sept. 14 attacks on its oil facilities.
Any progress on long-mulled Saudi plans to purchase the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems would cause disquiet in Washington, which is sending 3,000 troops and additional air systems to Saudi Arabia.
U.S. President Donald Trump has resisted pressure to sanction Riyadh over human rights abuses, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, calling that a "foolish” move that would only benefit competitors Russia and China.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia's King Salman attend the official welcome ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 14, 2019.