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Saudi king slams Iranian interference in Middle East during 'historic' visit to Russia

Saudi King Salman is in Moscow with a delegation that includes domestic military and oil experts. It is the first-ever visit by a sitting Saudi monarch to Russia.

Saudi Arabien König Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud (Picture alliance/abaca/B. Press)

While Russia and Saudi Arabia agreed on an arms deal Thursday in Moscow Saudi King Salman insisted that Iran must stop meddling in Middle East affairs.

"We emphasize that the security and stability of the Gulf region and the Middle East is an urgent necessity for achieving stability and security in Yemen," Salman said, as quoted by Russia’s Interfax news agency. "This would demand that Iran give up interference with the internal affairs of the region, to give up actions destabilizing the situation in this region."

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Iran has been backing Houthi rebels in Yemen, a close ally and next-door neighbor of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is leading the international coalition launching daily airstrikes against Houthi-held settlements in Yemen.

Russia’s response to the king’s demand was not immediately known but Russia has been a strong supporter of Iran as Tehran and Moscow have backed embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a six-year-long civil war against various militant groups.

By contrast, Saudi Arabia has been supporting the rebel groups seeking to topple Assad.

As for the arms deal, Saudi Arabia is buying the S-400 air defense system, the Kornet anti-tank guided missile systems and multiple rocket launchers. The Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) issued a statement saying the purchases featured "cutting edge technologies" but they did not say how much the deal was worth.

Defense industry and oil

These agreements are "expected to play a pivotal role in the growth and development of the military and military systems industry in Saudi Arabia," the SAMI statement added.

"The memorandum of understanding includes the transfer of technology for the local production" of the Kornet.

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"In addition, the parties will cooperate in setting a plan to localize the manufacturing and sustainment of parts of the S-400 air defense system," according to the SAMI statement. 

Moscow and Riyadh also agreed to develop production in Saudi Arabia of the Kalashnikov automatic rifle and its ammunition as well as educational and training programs for Saudi nationals.

"These agreements are expected to have tangible economic contributions and create hundreds of direct jobs," the state-owned company's statement said.

The deals "will also transfer cutting edge technologies that will act as a catalyst for localizing 50 percent of the Kingdom's military spending."

The two leaders discussed oil during their "historic" meeting. Both countries have been hit hard by a plunge in oil prices three years ago. A barrel of oil was selling for more than $100 a barrel in mid-2014 when it began a rapid decline, at one point falling below $40, and currently trading at around $50.

Read more: Qatar and Russia to bolster economic ties

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman

Saudi Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman visited Russia in May

But OPEC — led by Saudi Arabia, which holds the world’s largest oil reserves — and Russia, a non-OPEC member which nonetheless is a major oil producer, recently reached a broad agreement on production cuts across OPEC and non-OPEC states designed to push prices back up.

bik/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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