US senator wants ‘freeze’ on Saudi cooperation after OPEC+ cuts

The US has accused Saudi Arabia of helping underwrite Russia’s war in Ukraine as the supply cut will raise oil prices.

US Senator Bob Menendez
US Senator Bob Menendez [File: Tom Williams/Pool via Reuters]

Chairman of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez called on Monday for a “freeze” on cooperation with Saudi Arabia after Saudi-led OPEC+ announced an oil production cut last week despite pressure from the US.

The Saudi-led OPEC+ grouping agreed to cut output by an amount equal to about 2 percent of global supply, curbing production in a tight market and raising the possibility of higher gasoline prices as Washington seeks to limit Russia’s energy revenue after its invasion of Ukraine.

“The United States must immediately freeze all aspects of our cooperation with Saudi Arabia, including any arms sales and security cooperation beyond what is absolutely necessary to defend US personnel and interests,” Menendez said in a statement.

The US has accused the kingdom, the world’s second-largest oil producer, of helping underwrite Russia’s war in Ukraine as the supply cut will raise oil prices amid a global energy crisis.

“I will not green-light any cooperation with Riyadh until the Kingdom reassesses its position with respect to the war in Ukraine. Enough is enough,” Menendez said.

Window of OPEC building with the blue sign on the window
Oil prices surged to a five-week high on Friday, two days after the OPEC+ cut [File: Ramzi Boudina/Reuters]

Last week the White House said it was “disappointed” in the OPEC+ decision and called it “shortsighted”.

The Saudi embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rising oil prices

Oil prices leapt to a five-week high on Friday, two days after the OPEC+ cut, but slipped on Monday, with international benchmark Brent crude settling about 1.8 percent down at $96.19 a barrel on worries about a potential global recession.

High oil prices are a vulnerability for Biden’s fellow Democrats in the November 8 US midterm elections, when they are defending their control of Congress.

Saudi Arabia and other members of OPEC+ have said they seek to prevent volatility rather than to target a particular oil price.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Sunday praised the production cut saying it was good that such “balanced, thoughtful and planned work of the countries that take a responsible position within OPEC is opposed to the actions of the US”.

US officials are considering the release of 10 million barrels of oil from the country’s strategic petroleum reserve next month to “protect American consumers and promote energy security”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies