MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin said that a planned visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Russia had been changed at the last minute, prompting the Kremlin chief to visit Riyadh for talks with the leader of the world's biggest oil exporter.
Mystery surrounds Putin's hastily arranged trip to the Middle East, on which he was escorted by Russian fighter jets, and it was not immediately clear what was so important for the Kremlin chief to make a rare trip outside Russia.
"We awaited you in Moscow," Putin told the crown prince, known as MbS, in Riyadh with a smile.
"I know that events forced a correction to those plans but as I have already said nothing can prevent the development of our friendly relations."
Putin then told MbS: "But the next meeting should be in Moscow."
The crown prince said through a Russian translator that he was of course ready to do that.
"Then we are agreed," Putin said.
MbS praised joint coordination between the two countries "that helped remove tensions in Middle East," the Saudi state news agency SPA said.
He said that the two countries shared many interests and said they were working for the benefit of Russia, the Kingdom and the entire Middle East and wider world.
Putin's meeting with MbS came after oil prices fell despite a pledge by OPEC+, which groups the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies led by Russia, to further cut output.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said after the talks that cooperation would continue within OPEC+, but there were no specifics about the visit.
Russia's defence ministry had earlier shown the Kremlin chief's Ilyushin-96 aircraft flanked by Sukhoi-35S fighter jets on its flight from Russia to the United Arab Emirates, Putin's first stop on the trip. (Reporting by Reuters; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)