This handout picture taken and released by the Ukrainian Presidential press service on February 26, 2023, shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) shaking hands with Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud (R) prior to their talks in Kyiv. (Photo by Handout / Ukrainian Presidential Press Service / AFP)
Saudi Arabia signed agreements worth $400 million with Ukraine on Sunday after the kingdom’s foreign minister made a surprise visit to Kyiv, a move praised by Washington.
Prince Faisal bin Farhan met President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, his chief of staff Andriy Yermak, his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, and others. He was the highest-ranking Saudi official to visit Ukraine in 30 years.
The agreements stipulated how Ukraine will spend some $410 million in humanitarian aid the Saudi government authorized in October, the prince told reporters.
As part of that, Saudi Arabia said it will finance $300 million worth of oil products for Ukraine as a grant.
The US welcomed Prince Farhan’s visit, calling it an “important step.”
The trip comes after Saudi Arabia was accused by the US of siding with Russia in its year-old invasion of Ukraine through its oil policy.
Saudi Arabia steers the OPEC+ producers group with Moscow, and Washington has said its production cuts have been detrimental to the global economy. Saudi Arabia rejects this, saying its policy is aimed at balancing global oil markets and is not political. The rift soured US-Saudi relations last year but tensions have since eased.
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Sunday’s trip was also the first to Ukraine by a high-ranking official from an Arab country since Vladimir Putin’s invasion began in February 2022.
“We treat it as an important evidence of support of our state, especially in these days, amid the one-year mark of the Russian Federation’s full-scale aggression,” Yermak said. “This dialogue and this meeting is very important for us.”
Yermak said Ukraine’s officials discussed with Prince Faisal respect for the rules of international law and the United Nations statute. “Our stance on this is unified,” he said.
Saudi Arabia was one of 141 countries that voted last week in favor of a non-binding United Nations resolution calling for Moscow’s withdrawal from Ukraine.
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The parties also talked about Saudi Arabia’s prior help setting up prisoner swaps with Russia and prospects for additional exchanges, to strengthening both Kyiv’s and Riyadh’s positions in the global south, including Africa.
Ukraine hopes Riyadh will support at least some items in the peace plan laid out by Zelenskiy in November, Yermak said.
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