Putin makes rare trip outside Russia for OPEC talks with Saudi Arabia

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in the Middle East, where he is meeting with the leaders of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia to shore up support from the major oil producers. 

Putin, who has not visited the region since July 2022, is meeting for talks with President Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi. Despite relying on America for its security, ties between Russia and the UAE have tightened with the onset of the war as Russian investors have poured money into UAE real estate.

Putin is then due to travel to Saudi Arabia for his first face-to-face meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman since October 2019 to discuss oil production, OPEC+ and the war in the Gaza Strip, and the war with Ukraine.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shaking hands with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed upon arrival in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. Putin is meeting with the leaders of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to shore up support from the major oil producers. (Andrei Gordeyev / POOL / AFP)

The trip comes as Putin faces an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the war in Ukraine. The ICC has charged him with the unlawful deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia, but neither Saudi Arabia nor the UAE has signed the ICC founding treaty, meaning they do not face any obligation to detain Putin.

Putin’s meeting with the Saudi prince comes after oil prices fell despite a pledge by OPEC+, which groups the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies led by Russia to further cut output.

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The Kremlin said they would discuss energy cooperation, including as part of OPEC+, whose members pump more than 40% of the world’s oil. OPEC+ has managed production to try and boost crude oil prices.

Last week, the group expanded some output cuts into next year and brought up-and-coming oil supplier Brazil into the fold. Benchmark Brent Crude traded Wednesday at around $77 a barrel, down from nearly $100 in September, over concerns about a weakening economy worldwide.

A flame burns off waste gas at Saudi Aramco’s Ras Tanura oil refinery and terminal in Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia. Last week, OPEC+ expanded some output cuts into next year and brought up-and-coming oil supplier Brazil into the fold. (Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“Close Russian-Saudi coordination in this format is a reliable guarantee of maintaining a stable and predictable situation in the global oil market,” the Kremlin said.

They will also discuss the war between Israel and Hamas militants, the situation in Syria and Yemen, and broader issues like ensuring stability in the Gulf, the Kremlin said. A Kremlin aide said Ukraine would also be discussed.

The Ukrainian military fires a rocket at Russian positions on the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Nov. 24. The recent war has raged for nearly two years. (AP Photo/LIBKOS, File)

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Putin is scheduled to meet with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Thursday. The two countries have been discussing ways to get around the Western sanctions targeting them.

Putin arrives in the UAE as world leaders have descended on Dubai, one of the UAE’s seven emirates, for the U.N.’s annual climate summit, known as COP28. Western leaders who support Ukraine in the war are speaking at the summit, including Vice President Kamala Harris, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.