KSA to buy Russian S-400 defense systems, other arms

Kalashnikov automatic rifles to be produced in Saudi Arabia

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Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman attends a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin, Thursday. — AFP photos

THE Kingdom on Thursday signed preliminary agreements to buy S-400 air defense systems and receive "cutting edge technologies" from Russia during Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman's landmark visit to Moscow, the Saudi military industries firm said.

The agreement was announced as King Salman, who is on the first official trip to Russia by a Saudi ruler, and Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks at the Kremlin.

Under the agreements, Saudi Arabia is set to buy S-400 air defense systems, Kornet anti-tank guided missile systems and multiple rocket launchers.

These agreements are "expected to play a pivotal role in the growth and development of the military and military systems industry in Saudi Arabia," Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI), the Kingdom’s military industries firm said.

"The memorandum of understanding includes the transfer of technology for the local production" of the Kornet anti-tank guided missile systems, advanced multiple rocket launchers and automatic grenade launchers.

"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," SAMI said.

The two countries also agreed on the 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 company said.

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

Rosoboronexport, Russia's state-owned arms exporter, had no immediate comment on the agreements.

At the Kremlin's opulent St. Andrew's Hall, President Putin in televised remarks hailed King Salman’s visit as a "landmark" event. King Salman in his reply called Russia a "friendly nation" and said his country is committed to strengthen ties "in the interests of peace and security."

"We are grateful to you, Mr. President for the hospital reception we enjoy. We are glad to be in a friendly country. We seek stronger bilateral relations in the interests of peace and security and the interests of world economic development," King Salman said.

The King underscored the need for tapping the great opportunities for diversification and expansion of the base for economic cooperation between the two countries. He also called for creating an appropriate economic, commercial and investment ground that is capable of increasing the better utilization and strengthening of the comparative advantages of the two countries and pushing forward the trade exchange with all its components in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

The King also called on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities with regard to the problem of the Rohingya Muslims and to find a solution that protects them from violence and gross rights violations as well as to alleviate their suffering.

Relations between the two countries got a fillip with Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, holding several meetings with Putin.

The Kingdom, much like Russia, has been hit by the fall in oil prices since mid-2014. Despite regional disagreements, the two countries found common ground on energy policy in November when they led a deal between OPEC and non-OPEC states to cut production in a bid to shore up crude prices. So far that deal is holding.

The two sides are expected to announce large investments and joint ventures to further cement relations. Trade volume between the two countries reached $2.8 billion last year, according to official Saudi press.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said a slew of investment agreements are due to be signed during King Salman’s trip and plans for a $1 billion fund to invest in energy projects are likely to be finalized.

“This historic visit will witness the signing of memoranda of understanding (MoUs) in several fields that are important to both countries,” Al-Falih said.

He said MoUs would be signed with Russia’s state nuclear agency Rosatom for the peaceful use of nuclear energy as well as other agreements for military industries and marine development.

State oil giant Saudi Aramco will sign several non-binding MoUs with Russian companies Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, Sibur and Litasco.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund will also sign an MoU with Aramco and Saudi’s Public Investment Fund for investments in energy services and manufacturing.

Earlier on arrival in Moscow, King Salman was received by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and a military brass band.

Russian Rnergy Minister Alexander Novak told TASS news agency on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia is investing $1 billion into energy projects in Russia though he did not elaborate or specify whether these deals would be signed during the visit.

Putin visited Riyadh in 2007 and last met King Salman in Turkey in 2015.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hailed Salman's visit as "truly an epoch-making event in our relations," in an interview published on Wednesday by Asharq Al-Awsat. — With reports from Agencies


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