Putin hails new ties with US allies in ME
RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal said on Wednesday that the kingdom is ready to cooperate with Russia in the military and nuclear power spheres. The comment followed a two-day visit this week by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who became the first Russian head of state to visit the kingdom.
“There are no obstacles to cooperation between the two countries in all fields concerning the military and nuclear power,” Saud told reporters. During his visit, Putin was reported to have offered Russian expertise to the kingdom in the field of nuclear energy. This came as the six Gulf Arab states, which include Saudi Arabia, are moving ahead with plans to explore development of their first nuclear energy plants, a move seen as a response to Iran’s contentious nuclear programme.
Representatives of the region are planning to seek assistance from the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the Vienna, Austria based International Atomic Energy Agency _ later this month, Abdul Rahmanal-Attiyah, the secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, said on Sunday.
The GCC first announced its intention to study a peaceful nuclear programme in December, but has revealed few details about its plans. Saud said that Moscow and Riyadh are also engaged in talks about Russia helping with arms to the kingdom, based on Saudi Arabia’s military needs and on the kind of weapons Russia can provide.
He did not elaborate. The United States is the kingdom’s main arms supplier but Moscow represents an option for Saudi Arabia to diversify its weapons sources, as the kingdom opens up to new markets.
Russian officials have said their country hopes to win a prospective Saudi order for tanks.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin wrapped up a visit to three Arab nations claiming success in his mission to build stronger ties with traditional US allies in the Middle East.
“Our relations with the Arab countries have radically changed in a few years. We are working to reinforce and widen our contacts,” a clearly satisfied Putin said Tuesday as he left Jordan on the final leg of a tour that also took him to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
“For Russia the Middle East is strategically important”. Putin, who had launched a fierce diatribe against US foreign policy on the eve of his trip, was given a red-carpet welcome in the capitals of Washington’s traditional allies.
In the kingdom of Saudi Arabia he was hailed by King Abdullah as “a statesman, a man of peace, a man of justice”, while Jordan’s King Abdullah II praised his “personal courage and leadership”.
Such praise was music to the ears of Putin, whose country has traditionally had on close ties with Washington’s Middle East foes, Iran and Syria. The visits have opened the way for “big possibilities for Russia,” Putin said in Amman, adding that he detected “an increased interest in Russia on the part of our Arab partners”.
“We understand that this possibility of action must be done in a delicate and balanced manner,” he said in apparent reference to US policies. Putin set off to the region hoping to boost military and energy ties, particularly with oil-rich Saudi Arabia and gas-giant Qatar, but he left without securing any major agreements. He nevertheless offered to help Saudi Arabia develop atomic energy and in Doha he mooted the idea of a gas version of oil cartel OPEC. Jordan signed a 25-million-dollar deal to buy six KA-226 lightweight helicopters from Russia. On the political front, Putin pledged to strengthen Moscow’s role in the search for a comprehensive solution to the decades’ long Arab-Israeli conflict.
In Amman he met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas after talks with King Abdullah II during which he agreed to a new push to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. “As a member of the Quartet, Russia has an important role to play,” King Abdullah II said. The Middle East diplomatic Quartet, which also comprises the United States, the United Nations and the European Union, is set to meet on February 21 to reignite the peace process.
He took a new swipe at the United States before leaving Amman, a major beneficiary of US financial assistance that has received more than 4.7 billion dollars since 1952. “For more than 10 years we have been listening to what our partners have been saying about different topics. We are very patient and very tolerant but we have the feeling that we are misunderstood,” Putin said.
“They have begun to stir up so-called threats created by Russia, which don’t exist, in order to ask the US Congress for funds for their military action in Afghanistan, Iraq, and to build their anti-missile shield in Europe,” he added. Putin’s recent remarks about the United States are the latest in a long line of criticisms of Washington’s foreign policy.