Saudi King Salman’s foreign visit to Russia got off to a bit of an embarrassing start when his golden escalator broke down as he stepped off the plane.
The monarch had touched down in Moscow to sign a space exploration and nuclear deal with President Vladimir Putin when the malfunction took place.
He had been on the elaborate moving staircase for a couple of seconds when it suddenly stopped leaving the puzzled king stranded about halfway up.
Salman and his aides stood still for a about 20 seconds before walking down after realising the escalator was not going to start up again.
Saudi King Salman’s foreign visit to Russia got off to a bit of an embarrassing start when his golden escalator broke down as he stepped off the plane
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman attend a welcoming ceremony ahead of their talks in the Kremlin in Moscow today
King Salman sits in front of a Saudi flag and Vladimir Putin sits in front of a Russian one under a huge, gold clock as they exchange pleasantries
Today at the Kremlin’s opulent St Andrew’s Hall, Putin hailed the king’s visit as a ‘landmark’ event.
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’.
They agreed a number of joint ventures and it was revealed trade volume between the countries reached more than £2billion in trade last year.
Relations between the two countries have often been strained. During Cold War times, the Saudis helped arm Afghan rebels fighting against the Soviet invasion.
The kingdom, much like Russia, has been hit by the fall in oil prices since mid-2014. Despite regional disagreements, the two major oil-producing nations 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 and prices have recovered slightly to above $50 a barrel.
In an apparent reference to the output deal, Salman told Putin on Thursday that Saudi Arabia is ‘eager to continue the positive cooperation between our nations in the world oil market, which fosters global economic growth’.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told Russian news agencies earlier Friday that non-OPEC states would be willing to extend the output cut ‘if necessary.’
The Russian and Saudi leaders, pictured walking in front of an elaborate archway agreed deals today
The two countries also announced major investments and joint ventures to further cement relations, with Putin and Salman signing deals from arms sales to cooperation in space.
Trade volume between the two countries reached $2.8billion last year, according to official Saudi press.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, announced in 2015 plans to invest $10billion in Russia over the next five years, though only a fraction of that has so far been put up.
The Saudis have also been eyeing Russian nuclear power technologies and appear ready to expand food imports from Russia, which is set to remain the world’s biggest wheat exporter this year.
Food security is a major concern for Saudi Arabia, which stopped local production of livestock feed and wheat due to water scarcity.
Analysts say Salman’s trip to Moscow is the clearest sign yet that Russia’s strategy in the Middle East – including its high-risk show of military power in Syria – has paid off.
Salman’s visit caps off a number of visits to Russia over the past two years by Gulf royals which has included his heir and son.
Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said: ‘A number of Gulf leaders have been going with greater regularity to Moscow and I think for a simple reason – Russia has made itself much more of a factor in key parts of the Middle East as the US has taken a step back in some ways, particularly in Syria.’
Russian diplomats sit next to Vladimir Putin (centre, right) while the Saudi counterparts line up next to King Salman (centre, left)
King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (left) walks with Russian President Vladimir Putin
The Saudi monarch’s visit comes after decades of strained relations.
More recently, tensions were high over the war in Syria.
Russia and Iran have staunchly backed Syrian President Assad while Saudi Arabia has supported the Sunni rebels fighting to oust him.
However, relations have begun to improve in recent years and Salman’s heir, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has held several meetings with Putin.
Salman said at the talks in Moscow that Saudi Arabia calls for a political solution in Syria that ‘guarantees security and stability and the preservation of Syrian sovereignty’.
Earlier on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia thinks highly of Saudi Arabia’s role in arranging talks between the Syrian government and the oppositions in Geneva.
At the core of Saudi Arabia’s regional woes is its rival Iran, which is backed by Russia.
The Shiite-led regional power has spread its footprint throughout the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.
Saudi Arabia is at war with Iranian-allied rebel fighters in Yemen and is embroiled in a diplomatic standoff with Qatar, which has found support from Tehran.
Though Salman’s visit signals closer Russian ties with Sunni Arab Gulf states, Russia’s support for Iran is not expected to change.
Vladimir Putin meets King Salman who is on a three-day visit to Russia focusing on the Syrian crisis and energy deals
Putin’s Russia and Iran have staunchly backed Syrian President Assad while Saudi Arabia has supported the Sunni rebels fighting to oust him
The US, meanwhile, remains Saudi Arabia’s top weapons supplier and its most critical Western ally.
Anna Borshchevskaya, a fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says Russia has no capacity to replace the United States as Saudi Arabia’s key ally.
‘That said, it’s clear that Russia has been able to play a weak hand very well and step into vacuums everywhere where the US has treated,’ she said.
Saudi-US ties were strained under the Obama administration over its backing of a nuclear agreement with Iran and its handling of the Syrian conflict.
Relations improved under the Trump administration, but Washington’s focus in Syria continues to be on fighting the Islamic State group, not on ousting Assad.