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Russian FM puts politics above economics on GCC tour

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has kicked off his tour of the Gulf, reflecting Moscow's ambition to capitalize on its regional recognition as a great power.
Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz meets with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia March 5, 2019. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. - RC13B1B19C40

Russian Foreign Minister Russia Sergey Lavrov embarked on a four-day tour of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE on March 4. But while US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s tour of the Middle East in January sought to showcase Washington’s commitment to its regional allies, Lavrov senses that currents are changing and that Moscow needs to more actively put itself on the radar of powerful monarchies.

The Gulf has become a regular, even routine, destination for Russian diplomats. However, the Syrian conflict and Iran have dominated agendas for the past few years, never giving Russian diplomats and their counterparts a chance to explore the depth of relations. A multi-day regional tour to check the status of relations was long overdue.

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