The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud arrived in Moscow Wednesday evening on the first ever visit by a Saudi monarch to Russia.
Upon arrival, King Salman was received by the Russian First Deputy Premier Igor Shuvalov and the Saudi Ambassador to the Russian Federation Abdulrahman bin Ibrahim Al-Rassi, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
King Salman was accompanied by Prince Khalid bin Fahd bin Khalid; Prince Mansour bin Saud bin Abdulaziz; Prince Mohammed bin Fahd bin Abdulaziz and a number of Princes.
The official delegation includes Minister of State and Cabinet’s Member Dr. Musaed bin Mohammed Al-Aiban; Minister of State and Cabinet’s Member Dr. Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz Al-Assaf; Minister of Commerce and Investment Majed bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi; Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir; Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Eng. Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih; Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Eng. Abdulrahman bin Abdulmohsin Al-Fadhli; Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad and a number of senior civil and military officials.
An official reception ceremony was held in honor of King Salman, where both the national anthems of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Russian Federation were played before the King reviewed the Guard of Honor.
Then, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques shook hands with his dignitary hosts before he was escorted in a formal parade to his guest residence.
King Salman said he was happy to visit the Russian Federation and expressed hope that the visit would achieve the aspirations of the two countries to enhance bilateral relations and develop joint cooperation for the good and the interests of the two friendly countries and peoples and the service of international peace and security.
As part of his four-day trip, the King met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday for talks in the Kremlin focusing on the global oil market and the conflict in Syria, Associated Press (AP) reported.
Recently, tensions were high over the war in Syria, in which Russia has staunchly backed Syrian President Bashar Assad while Saudi Arabia has supported his foes.
However, relations have begun to improve in recent years and King Salman’s Heir, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has held several meetings with Putin.
A thaw between Moscow and Riyadh helped reach November’s deal in which OPEC and 10 other oil-producing countries, including Russia, agreed to cut their production in a bid to combat a supply glut and shore up crude prices.
The King has brought a massive delegation of Saudi businessmen with him, and the two parties are expected to negotiate new investment deals, including in the energy sector. The Saudis also have been eyeing Russian nuclear power technologies and appear ready to expand food imports from Russia, which is set to remain the world’s biggest wheat exporter this year.
While Riyadh has maintained its strategic alliance with the U.S., it has also sought to improve ties with Russia in a bid to counter the influence of its arch-rival, Iran and dissuade the Kremlin from too close a partnership with Tehran.
Asked about ties with Riyadh during a panel discussion at an international energy conference Wednesday, Putin responded that Moscow doesn’t see close U.S.-Saudi relations as an obstacle for closer cooperation with the Saudis, and added that alliances tend to shift.
“Is there anything in the world that stays unchanged? Putin said. "I think that all things change,” Putin said.