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Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan with Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin Palace during the former’s visit to Russia in 2017. Image Credit: Gulf News archives

Dubai: Russian President Vladimir Putin has lauded ties with the UAE and Saudi Arabia ahead of his tour of both countries this week.

“We look at the United Arab Emirates as one of our promising and very close partners,” Putin said in an interview with Saudi television Al Arabiya aired on Sunday.

“Last year, we signed a declaration on strategic partnership and cooperation,” he said.

“I won’t disclose a big secret if I say that I am in a constant contact with the UAE leadership.”

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Putin and HH Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan in June 2018. Image Credit: WAM

Putin pointed to a 7 billion-dollar sovereign fund with the UAE, two billion of which is already invested in some projects.

“The UAE is playing an important role in solving the region’s crises and playing without any exaggeration a role in enhancing stability.”

Putin to visit Saudi Arabia, UAE

Putin visits Saudi Arabia on Monday and the UAE on Tuesday for talks with their leaders expected to focus on promoting ties and discussing regional problems.

The Russian leader said that his country’s links are developing in all fields. According to him, Russian-Saudi economic cooperation grew by 38 per cent in the first half of this year.

“We are studying good joint projects. Our direct investment fund and the General Saudi Investment Fund have laid a joint base of 10 billion dollars,” Putin said.

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He disclosed that a Russian firm is considering the possibility of building a petrochemical complex of more than one billion dollars in Saudi Arabia.

“There are also relations in a very sensitive field, which requires mutual trust, namely, technical military cooperation. We have been negotiating this for a long time,” Putin said, without giving details.

He hailed his relations with Saudi King Salman Ibn Abdul Aziz and Crown Prince Mohammad.

“I am sure that my visit will give a fresh impetus to develop our ties and cooperation on the international arena.” He described Saudi Arabia as a regional and global player, mainly in the world energy market.

Aramco attacks condemned

Condemning last month’s attack on Saudi oil facilities, he said he had talked to the Saudi heir apparent and told him about the necessity of providing evidence about the culprits.

Saudi Arabia and the US have blamed Iran for the September 14 attack, which disrupted the kingdom’s oil production. “We are ready to offer all necessary help for conducting a thorough investigation into the incident,” said Putin whose Country maintains close ties with Iran.

$7b

UAE-Russia investment fund

The Russian president said his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani has denied at a recent meeting with him Tehran’s involvement in recent terrorist attacks in the region.

Putin said his country has no idea about who attacked the Saudi oil installations.

“Regardless of who stood behind this incident, we condemn this kind of acts. If anyone believes that acts such seizing tankers, attacks on oil infrastructures will affect in one way or cooperation between Russia and our Arab friends – Saudi Arabia and the UAE – they are all mistaken. Our aim is to stabilize the global energy market. We’ll work with Saudi Arabia and other partners and friends in the Arab world in order to neutralize and minimise attempts to destabilise the market ”

Call for US, EU and Gulf organisation

Putin referred to a Russian proposal to set up an organisation composed of the Gulf countries, the US and the Europe to act as a forum to discuss regional crises.

38%

Russia-Saudi economic cooperation growth in first half of 2019

“In view of sharp contradictions among the countries of the region, my opinion is that it will be appropriate to set up such a forum so that people at least can meet not for negotiations, but for handshakes among negotiations. This is very important.”

He pledged that Russia will use its “good ties” with Iran and Arab countries to defuse regional tensions. “If we use our good ties with Iran and the Arab world – Saudi Arabia and the UAE, I think we can come up with what serves common interests,” he said.

Putin said that without Saudi and UAE support, Russian-led efforts to stabilize Syria would not have been possible. “Despite sharp contradictions, there is what can unify and pool our efforts together to fulfil the common goal. We have to find these objectives and work together to fulfil them,” he added.

Putin backs 'legitimate' Syrian government

Russia’s military interference in Syria was to fight what he called “terrorist organizations” and support the “legitimate government” there.

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Russian troops in Syria in March 2018. Image Credit: Reuters

He sounded optimistic about Syria’s peace process, with a recent agreement on the formation of a committee to draft a new constitution for the war-torn country.

“Today many [Syrians] are returning to their homes… This is an obvious sign that people trust the situation taking shape at present and trust guarantees offered by the state. Furthermore, they trust the guaranteeing countries there,” he added, referring to Russia, Turkey and Iran.

Iran missile programme 'worrisome'

On doubts over Iran’s nuclear programme, Putin said that the Iranian nuclear activity has been curtailed, but backed discussion on the country’s worrisome missile programme.

“There is a Russian saying that goes: Don’t mix God’s gift and the scrambled eggs. The missile programme is something and the nuclear programme is something else,” he told Al Arabiya.

Putin described as “ambiguous” details of the so-called Deal of the Century, a controversial US plan to reach peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

“We believe in the necessity of implementing the two-state solution plan, which includes the creation of the Palestinian state we are strictly committed to all UN resolutions.”