RIYADH - Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a rare but much-publicised visit to Saudi Arabia - his first in 12 years - accompanied by a sizable delegation of trade, security and defence officials. Bilateral deals worth more than $2bn (£1.6bn) and more than 20 agreements have been announced.

The Saudis have also invited Russia to participate in the ongoing international investigation into the 14 September drone and missile attacks on Saudi oil facilities.

Defence discussions have included the possible purchase and future deployment of Russia's formidable S-400 air defence missile system, which would be something of a diplomatic blow to Washington.

The US recently cancelled Turkey's participation in its F35 fighter programme after Turkey went ahead with buying the S-400 from Russia.

Bilateral trade deals between Riyadh and Moscow have been accelerating since a June 2018 agreement and recent co-operation to restrain global oil supplies to keep prices buoyant.

Announcements by RDIF, Russia's Direct Investment Fund, to coincide with President Putin's visit include:

A deal with Saudi state oil company Saudi Aramco to acquire a 30% Saudi share in Novomet, a Russian oil equipment supplier
A $600m deal for Saudi Arabia to invest in Russian aircraft leasing business
Possible co-operation between Russia's Gazprom and Saudi firms on natural gas.
All of this signals a significant warming of ties between the Saudis and a country whose enemies (the Afghan mujahideen) they once bankrolled in the 1980s.(FA)