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Russia denies report of Saudi offer over Syria support

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (L) and then Saudi Crown Prince Salman at a summit in Australia (file photo)

Russia has rejected claims that Saudi Arabia had tried to pressure Moscow to abandon its support for Syria in exchange for cooperation in the oil market.

The denial came after the New York Times quoted anonymous Saudi and US diplomatic sources as claiming that Saudi Arabia “has been trying to pressure President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to abandon his support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, using its dominance of the global oil markets at a time when the Russian government is reeling from the effects of plummeting oil prices.”

Aleksey Pushkov, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Russian State Duma, however, denied the report, saying, “The New York Times distorted information so many times, especially since the Ukrainian crisis started. I wouldn’t advise you taking it as a reliable source. There were no talks of such exchange.”

The official told RSN radio station that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who recently visited Riyadh for the funeral of deceased King Abdullah, had held no Syria-related talks with Saudi officials.

“We discussed oil, pricing, coordination between OPEC members and non-member states. The talks were positive and constructive. There was no Syrian dimension in them,” Pushkov said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said that the report was “nothing more but speculation by the paper.”

Russia has been one of the most steadfast allies of Damascus, while Saudi Arabia has been supporting the foreign-backed militants fighting to topple Assad since 2011, when the crisis hit Syria.

Oil prices have plunged about 60 percent since June last year over increased supplies by certain countries such as Saudi Arabia, the largest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and a lackluster global economic growth.

Riyadh said it would not reduce its output regardless of the price do protect its market share.

Many analysts believe oil prices are being used as a political weapon against certain countries, including Iran and Russia.


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