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Lavrov’s visit to Riyadh to enhance Gulf monarchies’ balanced stance on Ukraine — expert

During the upcoming contacts it will be important for Russia to see "the emergence of a more concrete position of these Arab countries" regarding prospects for further cooperation amid the West’s pressures, Boris Dolgov also pointed out

MOSCOW, May 31. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Bahrain and then to Saudi Arabia is aimed at enhancing the balanced position the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) member-countries take on Ukraine. Another fundamental task is to promote the understanding that already exists in the Arab world the global food crisis is largely artificially inflated by the West in its standoff with Russia, a senior research fellow at the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Boris Dolgov, told TASS in an interview.

He recalled that Tuesday saw a number of key events during Lavrov's visit to Bahrain, which became a logical follow-up of last April’s meeting Lavrov held with his Bahraini counterpart Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani in Moscow. And on Wednesday, Lavrov will take part in a regular meeting of the Russia-GCC Foreign Ministers' Forum in Riyadh. Both events on the program reflect the "priority" that Russia’s foreign policy attaches to the Near and Middle East, Dolgov said. "The forum will focus on economic cooperation, the situation in the Middle East, and some other issues," Dolgov said. "On the global level, the Ukrainian crisis will probably be touched upon."

Ukrainian factor

Dolgov recalled that none of the GCC countries "supported the West in its Russophobic campaign against Russia." "Moreover, Saudi Arabia even offered itself as a platform for negotiations. This proposal remains in force," he continued. "Russia is interested in these countries’ adequate position [on the relevant issue]."

The expert emphasized that during the upcoming contacts it would be important for Russia to see "the emergence of a more concrete position of these Arab countries" regarding the Ukrainian crisis and prospects for further cooperation with Russia amid the West’s pressures. The food problem, which the Western countries are inflating in connection with the situation in Ukraine, makes this issue still more crucial.

"As for the food crisis and the risk of world famine, I would say, first of all, that both are somewhat exaggerated and, also one of the aspects of the information war the West is waging against Russia. Take look at official statistics: Ukraine is in seventh place in terms of grain supplies. Ahead of it there are Russia, the US, Canada, Australia and even the European Union," Dolgov said. "In fact, the situation does not depend on Ukraine as heavily as it might seem. But in all likelihood this question will be touched upon at negotiations between Russia and these [Gulf] countries and be decided in accordance with their interests.

At the same time, the analyst stressed that the food crisis issue enjoyed low priority in the respective countries’ agendas and was by no means "seen there in an alarmist way." "The Arab countries share an understanding that it is part of the information war. They do not have any serious concerns on this score," Dolgov stressed, noting one of the basic tasks of the upcoming official meetings was to strengthen this understanding.

Regional agenda

Among other topics that will feature on the agenda of Lavrov's bilateral contacts at the forum Dolgov named expanding economic cooperation and regional issues in the Middle East. "Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries are now reconsidering their attitude to the Syrian conflict somewhat. There have been visits by the Syrian leader [Bashar Assad] to these countries and reciprocal visits by representatives of these countries to Damascus. To an extent, this is an indicator of progress and success, including the success of Russia’s policy," he continued. "Before, these countries used to support armed Islamist groups, but now they are building relations with the Syrian leadership. This is an important development. I think that this issue will also be raised, too."

Dolgov believes that the current state of affairs in Yemen and Libya will not remain without attention, since it "concerns the interests of both Russia and these [Gulf] countries." However, the issue of expanding economic cooperation may enjoy greater priority. "Russia is developing cooperation with these countries. As far as the oil and gas issue is concerned, it will, of course, be discussed in the light of the current prices and quotas," Dolgov said.