Saudi Arabia wishes to improve its relations with Russia via bilateral trade and investments, but is reluctant to let Moscow act as a mediator for Riyadh and Tehran.
“With regards to our relationship with Russia, we believe that the extent of trade we have with Russia is not in line with the size of our respective economies. We are both members of the G20 but we have very little trade, very little investment and so we wanted to change that,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said during an interview with CNBC.
“Russia is a great power, Russia has 20 million Muslims living in it, Russia can play a positive role and we wanted to engage with Russia, we wanted to improve our relationship with Russia not at the expense of our relationship with any other country but for the sake of having better ties with Russia,” the minister added.
According to al-Jubeir, “a process of encouraging trade, encouraging scientific exchanges, encouraging investment” has already been initiated.
Last weekend, protesters stormed the Saudi Arabian embassy in Iran after Riyadh executed top Iranian Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr on January 2, along with dozens of other people convicted of “terrorism.” Nimr al-Nimr had demanded more rights for Shiites, who are a minority in Saudi Arabia, where most citizens are Sunni Muslims.
Shortly after the unrest, Saudi Arabia quickly severed diplomatic ties with Iran.
Russia offered to mediate the situation, but al-Jubeir remarked that such assistance is not necessary.
“When it comes to mediation, we don’t need mediation. We know where Iran is, Iran knows where Saudi Arabia is, they know what our issues with them are and what they have to do is show us that they are serious,” al-Jubeir said.