DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates president and Saudi crown prince led mediation efforts that secured the release of U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner in a prisoner swap with Russia, a joint UAE-Saudi statement said.
Griner arrived in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi by private plane from Moscow after her release by Russian authorities, the statement said, as Russian citizen Viktor Bout, a former arms dealer, came in on another private plane from Washington after being released by U.S. authorities.
“The success of the mediation efforts was a reflection of the mutual and solid friendship between their two countries and the United States of America and the Russian Federation,” the joint statement said.
It “highlighted the important role played by the leaderships of the two brotherly countries in promoting dialogue between all parties”.
Saudi Arabia had scored an earlier diplomatic victory in September by securing freedom for foreign fighters captured in Ukraine, at a time of tension between Riyadh and Washington.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE, both traditional U.S. allies, are members of the OPEC+ oil producers alliance that includes Russia and have resisted Western pressure to help isolate Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
Their mediation reflects efforts to show their ties with Russia are of benefit to Washington, which had accused Gulf oil producers of siding with Russia when OPEC+ agreed in October to cut oil output targets over U.S. objections.
Reporting by Yomna Ehab and Moaz Abd-Alaziz in Cairo; writing by Ghaida Ghantous; editing by Alison Williams, Nick Macfie and Mark Heinrich