UAE, Saudi say OPEC+ should not play politics

FILE PHOTO: The Russian Energy Week International Forum in Moscow
FILE PHOTO: United Arab Emirates' Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei attends a session of the Russian Energy Week International Forum in Moscow, Russia October 14, 2021. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

March 29, 2022

By Maha El Dahan, Riham Alkousaa and Yousef Saba

DUBAI (Reuters) – The energy ministers of Saudia Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, key members of OPEC+, said on Tuesday the producers’ group should not engage in politics as pressure mounted on them to take action against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Asked by the moderator at an industry event about whether OPEC+ has a moral responsibility to expel Russia, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said “everybody leaves his politics at the door” when they hold meetings.

“If we don’t do that we would not have dealt with so many countries at different times. It could have been with Iraq at one point, it could have been with Iran at one point.”

OPEC+ has come under increasing pressure to pump more crude since Russia, the largest producer in the OPEC+ group, invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, and Western nations responded with sanctions that have curtailed Russian oil exports.

Both Prince Abdulaziz and UAE energy minister Suhail al-Mazrouei said the focus was on balancing crude oil markets and satisfying consumers.

“We have one mission and only one mission which is stabilizing the market. So we cannot be politicizing, or bringing politics to the organization having that debate … our aim is to calm the market,” said Mazrouei.

“If we are asking anyone to leave, then we are raising the prices, then we are doing something that is against what consumers want.”

The Gulf states, close U.S. allies, are members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries as well as OPEC+, which includes OPEC and other large oil producers such as Russia and Mexico.

Prince Abdulaziz said Russia produced an equivalent of about 10% of the world’s oil consumption.

OPEC+ will probably stick to plans for a modest increase in oil output in May, several sources close to the group said, resisting calls for more supply from the United States and other consuming nations after the Ukraine crisis pushed crude prices above $139 a barrel this month, their highest since 2008.

SUPPLIES NEEDED FOR STABLE WORLD ECONOMY

If the security of oil supplies is threatened the world economy will suffer. That security is a priority now and some countries are forgetting about the affordability of energy, UAE’s Mazrouei said, adding that while United States was a “very important partner for all of us,” the group needed to be pragmatic.

“We need their understanding that what we’re doing is to the benefit of the consumers, to the benefit of the United States and to the benefit of the consumers worldwide.”

On a visit to Kuwait, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that stable energy prices were in everyone’s collective interest and benefited producers as well.

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis have escalated attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities in recent weeks and ahead of a temporary truce for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The movement have also launched attacks on the UAE.

Houthis said they launched recent attacks on Saudi energy facilities and the Saudi-led coalition said oil giant Aramco’s petroleum products distribution station in Jeddah was hit, causing a fire in two storage tanks but no casualties.

Prince Abdulaziz drew attention to the politics at play inside OPEC that members have to accept.

“I ask you, who has been throwing these rockets and missiles at us and at Abu Dhabi? Who is financing? Who’s training?,” he said at the industry event, referring to Saudi Arabia’s rival Iran, also a key player in OPEC.

“Who’s supplying these weapons? It is a member of OPEC. I leave it for your imagination … A cynical mind sometimes helps.”

(Reporting by Maha El-Dahan, Riham Alkousaa and Yousef Saba; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Christian Schmollinger, David Evans and Tomasz Janowski)