Putin Invites Saudi King to Russia as They Discuss Yemen Crisis

Russian President Vladimir Putin invited Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz to make the first-ever visit to his country by a leader of the Gulf nation during a phone call in which they discussed the conflict in Yemen.

Putin, whose government has been critical of Saudi-led air strikes aimed at dislodging Houthi rebels in Yemen, pledged deeper cooperation with Saudi Arabia, the Kremlin said in an e-mailed statement on Monday. Saudi Arabia and its mainly Sunni allies accuse Shiite Iran of sending weapons to the rebels, a charge Iranian officials have denied.

King Salman thanked Putin for Russia’s decision to abstain during a United Nations Security Council vote last week that imposed an arms embargo on the Houthis, the Kremlin said.

Ties have been strained between Russia and U.S.-allied Saudi Arabia, the world’s two largest energy exporters, since they found themselves on opposing sides of the civil war in Syria in 2011. Some Russian officials accused Saudi Arabia of conspiring with the U.S. to push down oil prices. Saudia Arabia, a regional rival of Iran, has pushed for the ouster of Iranian-backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Putin made the first visit by a Russian leader to Saudi Arabia in 2007. Russia pointed to the situation in Yemen as a justification for its decision last week to lift a 2010 embargo on supplying S-300 air-defense missile systems to Iran.

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