Visiting Saudi Prince to discuss terrorist threat and economic cooperation in Moscow

Tuesday marks the beginning of the visit to Russia by Crown Prince Abdallah bin Abd al-Aziz al-Saud who is Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Saudi Arabia. This is the first visit to Russia by a Saudi official of such a rank in the past 70 years.

Moscow last received a high-ranking official from Saudi Arabia in 1932. It was Prince Feisal bin Abd al-Aziz. The visit reflected a high level of relations between the then Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia.

The current visit shows that relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia are on the rise today after a rather long recession period.

It is symbolic that His Royal Highness Prince Abdallah arrived in Moscow promptly after President Vladimir Putin voiced Russia's intention to join the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, where Saudi Arabia plays a leading role. The further rapprochement of the two major Moslem countries (indeed, Russia is home to close on 20 million Islam believers) will have a positive impact on international relations at large.

The anti-terrorist effort is a major area of Russian-Saudi co-operation. Both countries are all too aware of the tragic consequences terrorists' attacks on civilians may have.

Yet, Russia's and Saudi Arabia's action to curb international terrorism do not always evoke an adequate reaction in other countries, as well as of their own public.

The Kingdom does not support international terrorism and suffers a great deal from terrorist action itself, the fact which is not a common knowledge in Russia. Far from all in Russia are aware of lavish aid the kingdom provides to peaceful civilians who fell victim to terrorist acts during regional conflicts. Chechen refugees temporarily living in neighbouring Ingushetia are among those who receive aid from Saudi Arabia.

At the same time, far from all Saudi nationals know that the campaign in the North Caucasus is Russia's attempt to preserve its territorial integrity and ensure security on its borders.

The two countries' leaders must join efforts against international terror, the evil of the 21st century, among other things, in the information area, thus showing that terrorism is a supra-ethnic and supra-religious phenomenon.

The Mideastern settlement is yet another area where Russia's and Saudi Arabia's interests meet. They see practically eye to eye on the way the problem shall be resolved. Saudi Arabia's proposals have been included in the roadmap settlement plan drawn up by the international "quartet", i.e. Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations.

Russia, as a co-sponsor to the peace settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and member of the "quartet", and Saudi Arabia, being an influential regional country and an undeniable leader at many of the regional organisations, can do a lot to foster the peace process, including through the roadmap.

The future of Russo-Saudi relations lies with political, as well economic contacts. Both countries have huge economic potentials, and they both face further development tasks. Russia and Saudi Arabia are major oil producers. The former offers virtually infinite investment opportunities. The most lucrative investment projects in Russia are natural resources production and processing, agriculture, construction and transport.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia is welcome to use Russia's technology and expertise in developing deposits, irrigation and the use of alternative energy sources. Co-operation in the area of hi-tech and space exploration also has a bright outlook.

To take a good advantage of such potentialities, the two countries will have to display a good will and break away from the negative stereotypes. This is what Prince Abdallah's Russian visit will be conducive to.

Vladimir Kedrov, RIAN

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