Lavrov begins new diplomatic tour of the Middle East

The Russian foreign minister will visit Jordan and the United Arab Emirates to discuss the situation in Syria, among other issues
Serguéi Lavrov

AFP/ MAXIM SHEMETOV  -   Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

The head of Russian diplomacy, Sergey Lavrov, began a new tour of the Middle East on Wednesday, which will take him to Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. This was confirmed at a press conference by Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. However, she did not provide further details about the trip.

The Russian foreign minister's last official trip was in September and coincided with the 77th UN General Assembly in New York, where he met with his Emirati counterpart, Abdullah bin Zayed, among other senior diplomats. They discussed the current state of their bilateral relations weeks before agreeing within OPEC+ to reduce production by 2 million barrels per day.

Lavrov will visit Jordan and the UAE for the first time since April 2019 and March 2021, respectively. Amman, a long-standing US ally in the region, has been ironing out differences with Moscow over the situation in Syria, while Abu Dhabi has a close strategic partnership with the Kremlin that extends beyond the economic and commercial spheres.

El secretario general, Jens Stoltenberg, con el ministro de Asuntos Exteriores de Jordania, Ayman Safadi REUTERS/MUHAMMAD HAMED
REUTERS/MUHAMMAD HAMED - Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi

According to Jordan's foreign minister, Ayman Al Safadi, the veteran Russian diplomat will discuss the situation in its Syrian neighbour in Jordan. The Hashemite kingdom sees security on its border, which is controlled by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, as compromised. Al Safadi insisted from the 31st Arab League Summit in Algeria that the talks will be confined to the "Syrian dossier".

"The expansion of consultations between Russia and the Gulf countries on Syria is in Moscow's interests in several ways. In the short term, Russia can more effectively engage Arab countries in its plans for peace in Syria," analyst Samuel Ramani wrote in The Arab Gulf States Institute during Lavrov's latest regional tour.

Also in 2021, the Kremlin tried to mediate between Jordan and Syria. Attempts at negotiation resulted in a telephone conversation between King Abdullah II and al-Assad.

PHOTO/EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA via AP  -  Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan shake hands during a press conference following their talks in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, March 17, 2022

Meanwhile, Emirati President Mohammed bin Zayed travelled to St. Petersburg in mid-October to meet with Vladimir Putin. They not only discussed the situation in Ukraine, but also their energy alliance under the OPEC+ cartel and their trade interests. They also have common interests on the Syrian chessboard.

In August, Lavrov visited Myanmar and Cambodia, and earlier participated in the G20 ministerial-level summit in Bali, Indonesia. Since the beginning of the invasion, the head of Russian diplomacy has visited virtually every continent and region except Western Europe.

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Gulf and Middle Eastern countries have chosen not to support Western sanctions against Russia. Many of them have even refrained from condemning the aggression. At the same time, they have strengthened their bilateral relations with the Kremlin.