© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, stands inside a defendants’ cage before a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia August 4,
DUBAI (Reuters) -The UAE 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 UAE-Saudi joint statement said on Thursday.
Griner arrived in the United Arab Emirates’ capital Abu Dhabi on board a private plane from Moscow after her release by Russian authorities, it 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 successful mediation efforts reflect the strong ties of friendship that the two countries share with the United States and Russia, and the important role played by the leadership of the two brotherly countries in strengthening dialogue between all sides,” the Arabic-language statement added.
Saudi Arabia had won an earlier diplomatic victory in September by securing freedom for foreign fighters captured in Ukraine.
Traditional U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE 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.
The mediation reflects efforts to show that 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.