Saudi Arabia dismisses US criticism of oil production cut

Saudi Arabia has dismissed criticism from the U.S. about the kingdom’s decision with OPEC+ to cut oil production.

In a statement on Thursday attributed to the Saudi foreign ministry, an official said the decision to cut oil production was solely based on “economic considerations” and that all members of the OPEC+ coalition unanimously agreed to the decision.

The statement said U.S. criticism of the decision was “politically motivated.” 

The OPEC+ announcement earlier this month that it will cut oil production by 2 million barrels per day has led to fury among Democratic lawmakers.

Democrats and some Republicans argue the move will raise gas prices in the U.S. while offering a cushion to Russia, another major oil producer, as it fights a war in Ukraine.

The White House has signaled it will reexamine the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia given the decision.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby on Thursday pushed back on the Saudi foreign ministry statement, saying it “can try to spin or deflect, but the facts are simple.” He said that other OPEC+ nations have communicated to the U.S. privately that they disagree with the Saudi decision “but felt coerced to support” it.

“In recent weeks, the Saudis conveyed to us – privately and publicly – their intention to reduce oil production, which they knew would increase Russian revenues and blunt the effectiveness of sanctions.  That is the wrong direction,” Kirby said in a statement on Thursday. “We presented Saudi Arabia with analysis to show that there was no market basis to cut production targets, and that they could easily wait for the next OPEC meeting to see how things developed.”

The U.S. had sought to keep Saudi Arabia and the other OPEC+ nations from cutting production at a time of high inflation, and the decision was seen by many as Saudi Arabia siding with Moscow over the Biden administration.

Democrats in Congress were particularly angry given Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and the murder of Washington Post opinion journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The killing has been widely blamed on the top leadership of Saudi Arabia.

The production cut came months after President Biden made his controversial visit to Saudi Arabia in an effort to appeal to the kingdom to increase oil production. 

“The Kingdom affirms that the outcomes of the OPEC+ meetings are adopted through consensus among member states, and that they are not based on the unilateral decision by a single country,” the foreign ministry official said in a statement. “These outcomes are based purely on economic considerations that take into account maintaining balance of supply and demand in the oil markets, as well as aim to limit volatility that does not serve the interests of consumers and producers, as has been always the case within OPEC+.”

The ministry official also denied accusations the kingdom’s decision to cut oil production was an effort to support Russia, adding that the Saudi government strives to preserve healthy relationships with each country while rejecting “any dictates, actions, or efforts to distort its noble objectives to protect the global economy from oil market volatility.”

“The Kingdom affirms that it view its relationship with the United States of America as a strategic one that serves the common interests of both countries. The Kingdom also stresses the importance of building on the solid pillars upon which the Saudi-US relationship had stood over the past eight decades,” the ministry said. 

“These pillars include mutual respect, enhancing common interests, actively contributing to preserve regional and international peace and security, countering terrorism and extremism, and achieving prosperity for the peoples of the region.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) introduced legislation on Tuesday that would suspend all U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia for one year in response to the OPEC+ decision to cut oil production.

Alex Gangitano contributed. Updated at 11:07 a.m.

Tags Biden Jamal Khashoggi John Kirby oil production OPEC+ Richard Blumenthal Ro Khanna Russia-Ukraine conflict Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia Foreign Ministry The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries United States

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