(Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday thanked the president of the United Arab Emirates for his efforts in freeing prisoners of war in Ukraine and hailed what he said were expanding economic ties between Moscow and Abu Dhabi.
Putin made the comments during talks with UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan on the sidelines of Russia’s annual economic forum in St Petersburg, where UAE companies are prominent unlike many Western counterparts who have stayed away because of the Ukraine conflict.
The UAE, like Saudi Arabia, is a member of the OPEC+ oil alliance that includes Russia and it has maintained good ties with Moscow despite Western pressure to help isolate and punish it for sending tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in February 2022.
The UAE has not joined Western sanctions against Moscow, while Dubai, long popular with Russian tourists, has become a magnet for Russian business people over the past 16 months, with busy direct flights to Moscow and expanding economic ties.
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“I know that the Emirates’ economy and the social sphere are developing really actively under your leadership and, in this sense, for us of course the Emirates is a very good and comfortable partner,” Putin told the UAE president.
“Relations between Russia and the Emirates are developing really successfully,” he added.
The UAE has helped mediate at least one sensitive prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine.
“(The exchanges) matter to specific people, and that is always the most important thing, so thank you very much for that as well,” Putin said.
Sheikh Mohammed, who called Putin “my friend” according to a Kremlin transcript, said his nation was ready to help further on Ukraine.
“… if you think that the Emirates can play a role in the stabilisation of the situation there, in humanitarian issues – we are ready to assist in every way possible,” it cited him as telling Putin.
“The UAE continues to support all efforts aimed at reaching a political solution through dialogue & diplomacy…,” he tweeted separately after the meeting.
Sheikh Mohammed said he hoped the UAE could welcome one million Russian tourists this year.
(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Gareth Jones)
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