United States President Joe Biden has “no plans” to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at next month’s G20 summit in Indonesia, a senior US official says, as tensions over the OPEC+ decision to cut oil production continue to reverberate.
Biden will act “methodically” in deciding how to respond to Saudi Arabia regarding the oil output cuts and options include changes to US security assistance, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday.
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Speaking on CNN, Sullivan said no changes to the US-Saudi relationship were imminent as Biden re-evaluates it.
“The president isn’t going to act precipitously,” he said. “He is going to act methodically, strategically, and he’s going to take his time to consult with members of both parties and also to have an opportunity for Congress to return so that he can sit with them in person and work through the options.”
Relations between the US and Saudi Arabia are on thin ice over the oil production cuts. Last week, the Riyadh-led OPEC cartel and an additional group of 10 other oil producers headed by Russia decided to reduce global output by up to two million barrels per day from November.
The move is expected to lead to higher oil prices, which would help Russia pay for its offensive in Ukraine.
Saudi Arabia’s defence minister said he was “astonished” by accusations that the kingdom was “standing with Russia in its war with Ukraine”.
Prince Khalid bin Salman said the decision by OPEC+ was taken unanimously and for purely economic reasons. “It is telling that these false accusations did not come from the Ukrainian government,” King Salman’s son wrote on Twitter.
‘Always space for flexibility’
Biden has warned Saudi Arabia that there will be unspecified “consequences” for siding with Russia in supporting the cuts. The OPEC+ move undermines Western countries’ plans to impose a cap on the price of Russian oil in response to Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
The move could lead to soaring energy prices, raising concerns in Biden’s Democratic Party about how it will fare in November’s midterm elections.
Washington suggested Gulf producers were aligning with Russia at the expense of the United States and its Western allies.
Russia praised OPEC+ for agreeing to cut oil production and fight what it called the “mayhem” sown by the US in global energy markets.
Asked on Sunday about reviewing the output cut, OPEC’s Secretary General Haitham al-Ghais said on Sunday “in OPEC there is always a space for flexibility”.
He also told a news conference that OPEC+ decisions were purely technical, and the producer group took a preemptive decision.
Arms sales halt?
The move to cut oil production has been seen as a diplomatic slap in the face after Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia to meet with the crown prince in July.
US Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for a halt to most American arms sales to Saudi Arabia after the OPEC+ move.
The US-Saudi feud bled into talks by G20 finance ministers and central bankers in Washington, which closed on Thursday without a joint communique. The group was already divided over the conflict in Ukraine.
G20 heads of state and government will meet in November in Bali for a summit that could see Biden share the same venue as Russian President Vladimir Putin.