Anastasia Dmitrieva — Riyadh’s talks with Moscow on the purchase of S-400 air defense systems are advancing well, the deal is expected to be implemented after experts work out technical details, Saudi Ambassador to Russia Rayed Krimly told Sputnik in an interview.
“We signed the contract during the King’s visit, what is now happening is the implementation requires technical details of technology transfers, other technical details between experts of both sides … Experts need to finish their discussions, we cannot put a date for the end of discussions, but it is proceeding in a very positive manner,” the ambassador said, when asked for the latest update on the talks.
Krimly added that many delegations were discussing this issue.
King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud visited Russia in October last year. During that visit Moscow and Riyadh reached an agreement on supply of Russia’s S-400 air defense missile systems, according to the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation.
CEO of Russia’s Rostec Corporation Sergey Chemezov said in December that talks were underway, but no contracts had been signed yet.
Saudi Arabia first indicated an interest in Russian S-400 Triumf systems at the Dubai Airshow-2015, according to the head of Russia’s Rostec corporation, Sergei Chemezov. The sides have held talks on supplying the systems to Riyadh.
The S-400 Triumph is a mobile surface-to-air missile system, which integrates a multifunctional radar, autonomous detection and targeting systems, anti-aircraft missile systems, launchers, and a command and control center. It is capable of firing three types of missiles that can hit aerial targets at short-to-extremely long ranges.
Russian Direct Investment Fund
Riyadh is satisfied with the results of $1 billion invested in the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and might increase the investment, Saudi Ambassador to Russia Rayed Krimly told Sputnik in an interview.
“We have already invested $1 billion in the Russian fund and our people are happy with the results. This means that it will probably increase. Our commitment reaches $10 billion in total and we implemented already $1 billion,” the ambassador said.
In November, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak announced that the Russian and Saudi funds were considering joint investments in 25 projects totaling over $10 billion. In February, RDIF CEO Kirill Dmitriev said that the Russian fund, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and the Saudi Aramco company would invest more than $1 billion in the Russia-based Eurasia Drilling Company (EDC), as well as Russia’s Novomet Oil Services Holding and the Sibur Holding’s project in the kingdom.
Foreign Troops in Syria
Russia and Saudi Arabia have the same goal in Syria, which is to see the country free from foreign troops and terrorist groups, Rayed Krimly said.
“We are in consultations and coordination sometimes with Russia regarding the ways to move this [settlement] process ahead in the near future. In the principal, our objectives are the same.. We want Syria that is stable, secure and prosperous and we want Syria that is free from terrorist groups and sectarian militias and foreign troops,” the ambassador said.
Kremly added that both Riyadh and Moscow wanted “Syria for all Syrians on equal basis regardless of their sector ethnicity or religious affiliation.”
On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that all foreign troops should leave Syria’s southwestern de-escalation zone as soon as possible. According to the minister, Russia is working on the issue with the United States and Jordan. A source familiar with preparations for the meeting told Sputnik that Russia, the United States and Jordan may hold talks on Syria’s southern de-escalation zone within a week.
On Tuesday, Israeli media reported that Israel and Russia agreed that only the Syrian government forces would be deployed on the country’s southern borders, rather than troops affiliated with Iran or the Lebanese Hezbollah movement. However, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said he was unaware of such an arrangement.
The news followed recent escalation of the decades-long tensions between Israel and Iran, which led to the Israeli Air Force’s attack on dozens of what it called Iranian military targets in Syria earlier in May. Israel explained its attack by saying that the Iranian forced had fired missiles on the Israeli positions in the Golan Heights.
In an interview published on Thursday, Syrian President Bashar Assad said that despite Israel’s claims, there were no Iranian troops in Syria. He admitted though that there were some Iranian officers who assisted as military advisers.
FIFA World Cup
Around 10,000 Saudis are expected to come to Russia for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which will start on June 14 with the opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia, Krimly said.
“It is a golden opportunity for Saudi Arabian fans to visit Russia. Our estimate is around 10,000 Saudis attending the opening match and other matches. This is the largest number ever of Saudis coming to Russia,” the ambassador said.
Kremly stressed that the tournament would provide a great opportunity both for Saudis and Russians to know each other better, noting the importance of the event in terms of touristic, economic and sport reasons.
“It is important because frankly both sides have limited knowledge of each other and some of the images are taken from Hollywood movies that distort reality in both Saudi Arabia and in Russia. Seeing firsthand the reality and then meeting firsthand with Russian counterparts is very important for both sides. This will tremendously increase the number of Saudi tourists coming later to Russia,” the ambassador said.
“Regarding the official delegation, yes, of course, our head of Saudi sports agency is coming with the team to attend [the opening match], but also I expect some high-levels coming as well. It is a very important occasion,” Krimly said.
Russia will host its first-ever FIFA World Cup between June 14 and July 15, with matches set to take place in 11 host cities, including Moscow.