Middle East

Blinken sees some ‘positive’ signs by Saudis after oil cut

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia has offered some “positive” signs since its bombshell oil production cut but he made clear that Washington remained unhappy.

The OPEC+ cartel infuriated President Joe Biden by deciding to cut production by two million barrels a day starting in November, putting pressure on consumer prices days before US elections and potentially raising revenue for Russia while its war in Ukraine rages on.

The Biden administration publicly accused Riyadh of siding with Russia. But Blinken acknowledged that Saudi Arabia has since voted with the United States to condemn Moscow’s annexations of Ukrainian territory and has announced $400 million in humanitarian aid for Ukraine.

“So these are positive developments. They don’t compensate for the decision that was made by OPEC+ on production. But we take note of that,” Blinken said at a Bloomberg News event.

Biden as a candidate vowed to shun Saudi Arabia over human rights abuses, including the killing of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate, but he took political risks in June by traveling there and meeting Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler.

US officials hoped the trip had secured an understanding on oil prices, amid pressure on Biden over soaring inflation.

Blinken reiterated that Saudi Arabia had made the “wrong decision” and dismissed its argument that it was responding to market dynamics.

“There was nothing to suggest in the analysis that we had — and it was shared with the Saudis — that we were looking at prices plummeting in ways that would be problematic for them,” Blinken said.

He repeated that the Biden administration was reassessing the relationship with Saudi Arabia, without giving details.

“We’re going to do it in a very deliberate fashion, in consultation with members of Congress to make sure of this, that the relationship better reflects our own interests,” he said.

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