MOSCOW: President Vlad­imir Putin was esco­rted to the Middle East by four Russian figh­ter jets on Wednesday for a rare trip abroad, during which he will discuss oil production and Opec+ with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Moha­m­med bin Salman.

Putin’s meeting with the prince known as MbS comes after oil prices fell despite a pledge by Opec+, which groups the Organ­isation of the Petroleum Expo­r­ting Countries (Ope­c) and allies led by Russia, to further cut output.

The president’s plane was flanked by Sukhoi-35S fighter jets, which the defence ministry showed flying beside his Ilyushin-96 aircraft from Russia to the United Arab Emirates.

In Abu Dhabi, President Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan called Putin his “dear friend” and UAE jets greeted the Kremlin chief with a fly-past trailing the colours of the Russian flag.

“Our relations, largely due to your position, have reached an unprecedentedly high level,” Putin told Sheikh Mohammed. “The UAE is Russia’s main trading partner in the Arab world.” Putin said Russia and the UAE cooperated as part of Opec+, whose members pump more than 40 per cent of the world’s oil, adding that they would discuss the Gaza crisis and Ukraine.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2023

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