Middle Eastern leaders flood to Moscow for Syrian talks, aerospace salon
Russian President Vladimir Putin is to host the Jordanian King and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi in Moscow Tuesday to discuss the Syrian crisis and take part in a showcase of Russia's military industry.
Jordanian King Abdullah II and the strongman of the United Arab Emirates, Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, will visit Moscow one day before Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi arrives in the Russian capital to attend the Maks-2015 military salon.
Despite foreign interest in the Russian space and defence industries, no international contracts are expected to be signed during the salon, a spokesman for Russia's state defence import-export company Rosoboronexport, Vyacheslav Davydenko, told AFP last week.
Middle Eastern government delegations have been flooding into Moscow in recent weeks and days, with a Syrian opposition delegation tolerated by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad arriving on Sunday for talks on the crisis in their war-torn country.
Iranian officials are also expected in Moscow this week to finalise negotiations for Tehran's purchase of S-300 air defence systems from Russia, much to the dismay of the United States and Israel.
The visits come as Russia, one of the few remaining allies of the Assad regime in Syria, has renewed diplomatic efforts to find a resolution to the four-year civil war that has claimed some 240,000 lives.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently hosted his Saudi and Iranian counterparts in an effort to push a plan for a broader grouping than the current US-led coalition to fight the Islamic State group, which would include Syria's government and its allies.
Assad's opponents have rejected the idea.
The Russian president and the head of Jordan's Hashemite kingdom are also expected to discuss the prospect of jointly building Jordan's first nuclear station, according to the Kremlin.
King Abdullah II, who has made 13 visits to Russia since acceding to the throne in 1999, and President Vladimir Putin are expected to discuss the "fight against the Islamic State terrorist group, the resolution of the Syrian conflict and the peace process in the Middle East".
Some 600,000 Syrians are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in neighbouring Jordan. Amman claims it is hosting some 1.5 million Syrian refugees.
Putin's talks with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi will be focused on energy, as well as "stability and security" in the Middle East and Northern Africa, the Kremlin said.
- Modernising the Russian army -
Putin and his foreign guests will attend the opening on the biennial Maks salon, where more than 700 Russian and foreign companies from 30 countries will be represented.
The salon opens as Russia is grappling with a crippling economic crisis on the back of Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis and lower oil prices.
Russia has nonetheless been spending billions of dollars to modernise its army and conduct snap combat readiness checks from the Arctic to the Far East.
Russia earned $15.5 billion from arms sales last year in spite of Western sanctions imposed against its defence sector, making Moscow the world's second largest arms exporter after Washington, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Domestic arms orders, including the Russian army's purchase of some 50 Sukhoi-35 fighter jets, are expected to be made at the salon, business daily Vedomosti reported.
The Sukhoi T-50, a 5th generation fighter jet conceived jointly with India, is expected to be introduced to the Russian army next year.
© 2015 AFP