Saudi Arabia defends its oil policy against US accusations

OIL TITAN A Saudi Aramco oil facility near the al-Khurj area, just outside the Saudi capital Riyadh, on September 15, 2019. AFP FILE PHOTO

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia has dismissed US accusations of siding with Russia amid the war in Ukraine by cutting oil production to drive up crude prices, insisting it was of a purely commercial decision.

“We are astonished by the accusations that the kingdom stands with Russia in its war against Ukraine,” Saudi Defense Minister Prince Khaled bin Salman tweeted on Sunday evening.

The Saudi Arabia-led Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its Moscow-led alliance with other major oil producers — collectively known as OPEC+ — angered Washington by deciding to cut production of two million barrels per day from November, adding further pressure to soaring prices. crude price.

“It is telling that these false accusations do not come from the Ukrainian government,” Prince Khaled wrote. “Although OPEC+’s decision, which was taken unanimously, was due to purely economic reasons, some have accused the kingdom of standing with Russia.

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“Iran is also a member of OPEC. Does that mean the kingdom is also on Iran’s side?” he asked, referring to regional rival Saudi Arabia.

In a speech broadcast on Sunday evening, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud insisted that his country was “working hard, within the framework of its energy strategy, to support the stability and balance of world oil markets”.

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which like Saudi Arabia are U.S. allies as well as OPEC partners, also defended the cartel’s decision as a “technical” one.

White House spokesman John Kirby said last week that Riyadh knew the cut would “increase Russian revenue and lessen the effectiveness of sanctions” against Moscow.

The United States has pledged to reassess ties with the oil-rich kingdom since the cut, which was seen as a diplomatic slap in the face of President Joe Biden by raising prices for American consumers weeks before the congressional elections .

Despite vowing to make the kingdom an international “pariah” after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, Biden visited Saudi Arabia in July and met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with the two greeting each other with a much publicized punch. .

But with relations now strained, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday that Biden had “no intention” of meeting Prince Mohammed at an upcoming Group of 20 summit on the Indonesian resort island of Bali next month.

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