Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense, arrived in Moscow on Wednesday on a high-profile visit to discuss key issues with Russian leaders including President Vladimir Putin.
Upon arrival at Bulkifa Airport in St. Petersburg, Prince Mohammed was received by Russian Minister of Energy Alexander Novak and other officials (photo).
Prince Mohammed’s official delegation included Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Bin Ibrahim Al-Naimi, Minister of State, Member of the Council of Ministers and Acting Minister of Housing Dr. Essam bin Saad bin Said, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, and other officials.
Saudi Ambassador to Russia Abdulrahman Al-Rassi said this landmark visit will strengthen economic, cultural, political and trade relations with Russia. It would see the two sides create a structure for institutional bilateral dialogue, schedule mutual visits, cooperation on research and the media, and activate institutions such as the Saudi-Russian Business Council, he added.
Prince Mohammed, aged 29, was elevated to the post of Defense Minister the day King Salman acceded to the throne in January.
Vladimir Putin met Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Thursday on the margin of the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum.
Ahead of the meeting, the Kremlin's top Foreign Policy Aide Yury Ushakov said Putin and the Saudi Prince would discuss a range of international issues including the Syria crisis and the fight against the Islamic State group as well as ramping up economic ties.
“Undoubtedly the meeting is very important and speaks of the interest of both sides - Russian and Saudi - in ramping up ties to a wholly new level,” Ushakov said.
The two countries are set to ink a number of agreements on the forum's sidelines, the Kremlin said.
Prince Mohammed visited a major exhibition of military hardware which opened outside Moscow on Tuesday.
“I am interested in all kinds of telecommunications - land-based, satellite and encryption for data transmission,” he was quoted as saying by Voentelecom, one of the firms taking part in the exhibition, on Wednesday.
Relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia have been strained in recent years over Moscow's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom Riyadh opposes.
The Soviet Union was the first ever foreign country to acknowledge Saudi Arabia as a country in 1926. In 1932, Prince Faisal paid a visit to the Soviet Union. Although ties cooled a decade later, Saudi-Russian relations picked up after the fall of the communist bloc in 1991.
The late King Abdullah - then Crown Prince - visited Moscow in 2003. The two countries inked then deals on expanding cooperation in science, energy and technology.
In 2007, Prince Sultan visited Russia when he was Crown Prince and Defense Minister. He received an honorary degree from Moscow’s University of International Relations.
In that same year, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited King Abdullah on a high profile trip where regional security issues, energy, trade, transportation, scientific cooperation and exchanges were discussed.