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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Begins Historic Middle East Tour

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- In the first trip to Saudi Arabia by a Russian leader, President Vladimir Putin arrived in the kingdom Sunday, where he is expected to discuss with top Saudi officials the region's hotspots as well as economic and military cooperation.

Saudi King Abdullah and Crown Prince Sultan met Putin at the airport in Riyadh, the official Saudi Press Agency reported Sunday. Putin is leading a large delegation that includes almost 60 business executives who are scheduled to meet with their Saudi counterparts to discuss investment opportunities and possible joint ventures between the two countries.

Saudi officials and the country's state-guided media have described Putin's visit as historic, highlighting Moscow's clout as a United Nations Security Council member, a part of the so-called Quartet -- which also includes the United States, the European Union and the United Nations -- that drafted the "road map" plan for Middle East peace, and a significant player in the oil and gas market.

King Abdullah told Itar-Tass that Putin's visit would give both sides a chance to discuss a wide range of issues. His interview with the news agency was carried by Saudi Arabia's official SPA news agency Sunday.

"Both countries enjoy great economic capabilities, good natural resources, numerous investment opportunities and a distinct cultural heritage," Abdullah was quoted as saying.

"Our meetings are very important because they will advance understanding and cooperation between the two countries," he added, SPA reported.

Putin is expected to meet with King Abdullah, Crown Prince Sultan and Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal on Sunday, Saudi media say. On Monday, he is expected to visit a photo gallery at the National Museum.