MOSCOW: Russia and Saudi Arabia are not necessarily at odds over key regional issues, even when it comes to policy regarding Iran and Qatar, a senior Moscow diplomat has told Arab News.
Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian Parliament, said it was “completely wrong” to claim that his country is “pro-Iranian” or “pro-Qatari” — despite the belief held by some that Moscow and Riyadh do not see eye-to-eye on such contentious issues.
Kosachev was speaking on the occasion of an official visit made by King Salman to Russia, the first such trip made by a sitting Saudi monarch.
When asked about Russia and Saudi Arabia’s apparently opposing stances on key aspects of foreign policy, Kosachev said there was not necessarily a contradiction.
“Our partners in Riyadh should understand that Russia definitely does not want to act against Saudi interests,” he said.
“I would not call our positions on Iranian and Qatari topics opposite ones. It is completely wrong to call Russian foreign policy ‘pro-Iranian’ or ‘pro-Qatari’. Or, say, ‘pro-Turkish’ or ‘pro-Israeli’.
“Iran was always a complicated partner for us, but the difficulties made us appreciate the achievements on many issues – from (the) Iranian nuclear program deal to participation of Tehran in Astana talks together with our country and Turkey. All three states are very different, have (a) complicated history of relations with each other. Nevertheless, understanding of the necessity to resolve common tasks brought them to the understanding that mutual cooperation is inevitable.
“This makes us optimistic regarding relations with other countries of the region, and Saudi Arabia takes a special place among them. Yes, we have different views on some processes in the Middle East, but I am sure that we will manage to reach agreement on the majority of the actual issues if both sides are willing to do it.”
Kosachev said Saudi Arabia’s involvement was “essential” in resolving Middle Eastern disputes.
“Our relations should be upgraded and we believe that now we have a positive background for that. We need Riyadh to understand our intentions and interests, in the Middle East as well, because they do not essentially contradict the interests of Saudi Arabia,” he said.
King Salman’s visit to Russia opens up the possibility of progress in topics relating to the Syrian conflict, Kosachev said.
“We would like to have progress on the package of topics of security and counterterrorism, which is tightly connected to Syrian settlement. Both countries have supported the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria in order to strengthen the cease-fire regime and to resolve the humanitarian problems. We see and appreciate the efforts made by Saudi partners to unite different groups of opposition … for Geneva talks.”