Saudi king due in Moscow on Thursday: Kremlin

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (Photo by AFP)
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (Photo by AFP)

King Salman of Saudi Arabia is to visit Russia Thursday in the latest sign that Riyadh is coming to terms with the turn of the tide in Syria where Moscow is helping the government defeat terrorists.

“We are awaiting the king’s visit on Thursday,” senior Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov was quoted by Russia’s TASS news agency as saying on Monday, without elaborating.

Riyadh has been supporting militants fighting to topple the central government in Damascus but those efforts have been dealt a blow by a series of decisive victories which the Syrian army has scored with the help of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.

Turkey, a Saudi ally in the campaign against the Syrian government, has already shifted toward Russia, helping set up a number of de-escalation zones in Syria in coordination with Moscow and Tehran.

Meanwhile, it emerged recently that the Saudis, who have been hosting meetings of Syria militants for years, were pressing them on an accord with Damascus and two blocs closer to Moscow.

For years, Riyadh and the militant groups it supported had pushed for a situation which envisaged no role for President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s future.

In September, Saudi Arabia hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for the first official visit in years.

King Salman’s visit also comes a month before OPEC oil producers are due to meet with other nations outside the group to discuss extending a pact on cutting crude output, that has helped prop up prices.

Russia and Saudi Arabia were key to the agreement in 2017 to cut production by around 1.8 million barrels per day for six months and subsequently extend it through March 2018.

The pact has helped drain additional crude supplies on the market and shore up prices to around $55 per barrel.

Both Saudi Arabia and Russia are heavily dependent on oil exports and the plunge of the prices have hit their economies.

On Saturday, official data showed Saudi Arabia’s economy has slipped back into recession as the oil sector stagnates and the government sector is hit by austerity policies designed to curb a state budget deficit.

Gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, shrank 2.3 percent from the previous quarter in the April-June period, after dropping 3.8 percent in the first quarter, Reuters reported.

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