DUBAI: Saudi King Salman told President Vladimir Putin of Russia of his keenness to strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries, with special emphasis on their partnership within the OPEC+ alliance of oil producing countries.
In a phone call between the new mega-development of NEOM and Moscow, the two leaders also discussed the work of the G20 under the Saudi presidency ahead of the summit in just over two months’ time and Russian advances toward developing a vaccine against the COVID-19 coronavirus.
According to a statement from the Saudi Press Agency, King Salman expressed “satisfaction over the increasing trade exchange between the two countries, stressing the constructive role of the Russian Federation in OPEC+ in achieving stability and balance in the oil market.”
President Putin highlighted the “fruitful cooperation with Saudi Arabia in the field of energy.”
The conversation comes as oil markets — buoyed for the past four months by the historic cuts deal led by the two biggest producers in OPEC+ — come under renewed pressure as doubts emerge about the strength of recovery in global energy demand.
Brent crude, the international benchmark, fell below $42 in market trading yesterday, off its recent best of more than $46.
The OPEC+ committee of ministers meets by virtual conference in 10 days’ time to assess the current status of the world’s oil markets, with both Saudi Arabia and Russia committed to seeing through the disciplined strategy of cuts, compliance and compensation that has brought them back from the carnage of April.
The two leaders also discussed the work of the G20 to “mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the return to normal life.”
Putin highlighted the continuing cooperation between the two countries in efforts to find a vaccine to the disease. Russia has developed the first vaccine — Sputnik V — to be registered with a national health administration, and is working in partnership with the Kingdom on the next crucial stage of widespread trials on humans in Russia and other countries.
The Russian vaccine was recently favorably judged in a peer-reviewed study in the prestigious British scientific journal The Lancet, which found it to be effective in developing antibodies with no serious side effects.
Saudi Arabia is one of five countries in which wider human trials will be held, the Russians have said, and scientists from the Kingdom have been in touch with Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, where the vaccine was developed.
In Lebanon, the total number of COVID-19 patients has exceeded 20,000, with the country’s health minister on Monday describing the situation as “delicate and in need of full awareness by all citizens.”
About 12,753 COVID-19 patients were registered during August, while 3,118 cases were registered during the first week of September.
The UN said than 200 UN staff members have been infected by COVID-19 in Syria as the global body steps up its contingency plans to combat the fast spread of the pandemic in the country, medical workers and UN officials said.
“More than two hundred cases have been reported among UN staff members, some of whom have been hospitalized and three who were medically evacuated,” UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria, Imran Riza, said in the letter, which was leaked to Reuters from an infected local staff member.