Russia's Lavrov begins Middle East tour with UAE meeting

Russia's Lavrov begins Middle East PR tour with UAE meeting
3 min read
10 March, 2021
Russia's foreign minister is embarking on a tour of the Gulf meeting key figures.
Lavrov has embarked on a Gulf tour [Getty]
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov began a tour of the Gulf region with a meeting with his Emirati counterpart in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, as Moscow seeks to bolster ties with regional powers.

Lavrov meeting with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed comes ahead of visits to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Sheikh Abdullah welcomed the Russian foreign minister to the UAE and spoke of the strengthening ties between Moscow and Abu Dhabi.

"Sergey and I are very good friends who often compare notes not only on politics but on many other things and issues," Sheikh Abdullah said according to The National.

Lavrov highlighted the steps taken by the UAE and Russia to work more closely on regional issues, since a key strategic and economic partnership was agreed in 2018.

"We share common ground on a wide array of issues and value our strategic partnership," said Lavrov.
The Russian leader addressed the issue of Tehran as the US looks to rekindle the nuclear deal amid growing anger in the region over Iran's actions.

Strikes on Saudi oil installations over the weekend by Iran-backed Houthi rebels led to growing unease about the US' approach to handling Iran.

There is also pressure on Joe Biden to link Iran's missile development and interventions in the Middle East to the nuclear deal. This appears to be a suggestion rejected by Lavrov.

"There are growing voices that say more needs to be discussed, that Iran's missile programme needs to stop, that Iran's regional activities need to stop. The Iran deal needs to be treated separately, we should not incorporate any other elements or concern no matter how grave they may be," he said.

"We believe that the parties should tackle the Iranian issue in simultaneous steps."

Sheikh Abdullah joined Russia in its opposition to US sanctions on key Syrian regime figures, where Moscow - along with Iran - is militarily backing Bashar Al-Assad.

Moscow argues that the Caesar sanctions are leading to extreme hardship in Syria, but backers of the penalties say they are necessary to punish the regime for its massive human rights abuses and corruption.

"It's extremely difficult to co-operate with Syria in some issues because of this Act, not just at the state level but for the private sector as well. We expressed our opinion frankly to the US," Sheikh Abdullah added.
Lavrov's visit to the Gulf comes ahead of visits to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, where he will discuss strategic and energy issues with regional leaders.

Some analysts have suggested that Lavrov is looking to capitalise on unease among some Gulf states about the new Joe Biden administration's plans for the region.

Russia has joined forces with the UAE in backing Libyan militia leader Khalifa Haftar in his war against the UN-backed government in Tripoli, while Abu Dhabi is also moving closer to the Syrian regime.

Russian state media has said that Lavrov's tour complements "regular trust-based contacts" between President Vladimir Putin and Gulf leaders, while the UAE visit is an "important part of bilateral political dialogue".

Russia and Saudi Arabia have also increased cooperation on oil output.

Riyadh and other Gulf powers are also said to be in negotiations with Moscow over acquiring Russian arms - including the S-400 missile system - despite Riyadh's traditional reliance on US-European weaponry.

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