Russia and Saudi Arabia have struck a number of deals, including contracts for Russian weapons, as part of a groundbreaking first visit by a Saudi monarch.

The Kremlin talks between Saudi King Salman and Russian president Vladimir Putin mark a thaw in relations between the countries, which have often been tense since the Cold War times when the kingdom supported Afghan rebels fighting the Soviet invasion in the 1980s.

Observers say Riyadh’s decision to boost ties with Moscow reflects the expanded clout Russia has won in the Middle East with its military blitz in Syria.

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Kimg Salman and Vladimir PutinRelations between Saudi Arabia and Russia broke down over the kingdom’s support of the Afghans fighting the Sovier invasion in the 1980s (Alexei Nikolsky/AP)

And it shows the Saudis’ interest in keeping Russia signed up to a global deal to limit oil production and push up the price of their valuable crude exports.

Hosting the Saudi king in the ornate Kremlin interiors, Mr Putin hailed his visit as a “landmark event” that will give a “strong impulse” to bilateral ties.

Salman said he was looking to expand relations with “friendly nation” Russia “in the interests of peace, security and development of the world economy”.

The Saudi monarch noted that the two nations agree on many international and regional issues and intend to continue their efforts to shore up global oil prices.

Following the talks, Saudi Arabian Military Industries (Sami) said it signed agreements with Russia’s state arms trader, Rosoboronexport, for the purchase of cutting-edge Russian weapons, including the long-range S-400 air defence missile systems.

In line with Saudi Arabia’s intention to localise weapons production, the deals envisage the transfer of technology for the local production of Russian Kornet-EM anti-tank missiles, TOS-1A rocket launchers and AGS-30 automatic grenade launchers and the latest version of the Kalashnikov assault rifle.

Kimg Salman and Vladimir PutinThe Saudis have bought long-range S-400 air defence missile systems from the Russians (Yuri Kadobnov/AP)

While the US has remained Saudi Arabia’s top weapons supplier and its most critical Western ally, Thursday’s deals highlighted Riyadh’s intention to expand ties with Russia.

The Saudis have also been eyeing Russian nuclear power technologies and appear ready to expand food imports from Russia, which is set to remain the world’s biggest wheat exporter this year.

Food security is a major concern for Saudi Arabia, which stopped local production of livestock feed and wheat due to water scarcity.