Pompeo in Saudi Arabia for talks on Iran

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives at the King Khalid International Airport in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Feb. 19, 2020. (AFP)
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, second right, and his wife Susan are met by a member of Saudi protocol as they arrive at the King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. (AP)
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (2nd L) arrives at the King Khalid International Airport in the Saudi capital Riyadh on February 19, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 20 February 2020

Pompeo in Saudi Arabia for talks on Iran

  • Pompeo will hold talks with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as well as Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan
  • After Riyadh, he will fly to Oman to meet the new sultan, Haitham bin Tariq, on Friday

RIYADH: The US Secretary of State landed in Riyadh on Wednesday for talks with Saudi Arabia’s leaders focused on countering Iran.
Mike Pompeo’s visit is his first to the Kingdom since the US killed Iran’s powerful military commander Qassem Soleimani.
He will hold talks with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as well as Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan, State Department officials said.
"We'll spend a lot of time talking about the security issues with the threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran in particular," Pompeo told reporters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa before heading to Riyadh.
Pompeo said the United States was "prepared to talk anytime" to Iran but emphasised that the Iranian regime has "got to fundamentally change their behavior".
"The pressure campaign continues. It's not just an economic pressure campaign, its diplomatic pressures, isolation through diplomacy as well," he said.

US President Donald Trump in 2018 withdrew from a nuclear accord with Iran and imposed sweeping sanctions aimed at reducing Tehran's regional clout.

Pompeo's three-day visit to Saudi Arabia comes after an increase in regional tensions following the drone strike last month in Baghdad that killed Soleimani. 
Iran responded with missile strikes on US forces in Iraq.

Speaking in Riyadh, Pompeo said that the US will not tolerate Iran’s attacks on American troops in Iraqi bases.

Earlier, he warned that the US would respond to Iranian attacks on its troops in Iraq.

“We are mindful that it cannot become ordinary course that the Iranians through their proxy forces in Iraq are putting the lives of Americans at risk,” he said.

He added that there “has to be accountability connected to those very serious attacks.”

Iran has also been blamed for a drone and missile strike on two Saudi Aramco facilities in September that temporarily shut down more than 5 percent of global oil supply.

Pompeo also said he would discuss a broad range of issues including the economic relationship between the two countries during his visit to the Kingdom. 

Last week, Saudi Arabia and the US celebrated the 75th anniversary of the USS Quincy meeting between President Franklin Roosevelt and King Abdulaziz.

Roosevelt and King Abdulaziz met on board the USS Quincy in 1945 and the first encounter between a US president and a Saudi King laid the foundation for the broad strategic partnership shared by the two countries today.

After Riyadh, Pompeo will fly to Oman to meet the new sultan, Haitham bin Tariq, on Friday.
Pompeo will offer condolences over the death of his predecessor Sultan Qaboos, who was the Arab world's longest-serving leader and served as a go-between for Iran and the United States.

*With AP


It was Russia, not Saudi Arabia, that pulled out of OPEC+ deal: Saudi ministers

Updated 04 April 2020

It was Russia, not Saudi Arabia, that pulled out of OPEC+ deal: Saudi ministers

  • Saudi foreign and energy ministers say Moscow's claim that Kingdom withdrew from the OPEC+ deal was unfounded
  • They said it was Russia that abandoned the agreement, leading to a collapse in world oil prices

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's foreign and energy ministers on Saturday denied Russia's claim that the Kingdom abandoned the OPEC+ deal, leading to a collapse in world oil prices.

In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said "a statement attributed to one of the media of President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation claimed that one of the reasons for the decline in oil prices was the Kingdom's withdrawal from the deal of OPEC + and that the Kingdom was planning to get rid of shale oil producers."

"The minister affirmed that what was mentioned is fully devoid of truth and that the withdrawal of the Kingdom from the agreement is not correct," the statement said.

In fact Saudi Arabia and 22 other countries tried to persuade Russia to make further cuts and extend the deal, but Russia did not agree, it said.

Prince Farhan expressed surprise that Russia had to resort to "falsifying facts" when Saudi Arabia's stance on shale oil production is known, the statement said.

He pointed out that Saudi Arabia is one of the main investors in the energy sector in United States, implying that there is no reason for the Kingdom "to get rid of shale oil producers" as Russia has claimed.

He further said the Kingdom "is also seeking to reach more cuts and achieve oil market equilibrium for the interest of shale oil producers."

OPEC+ refers to the cooperation between members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC oil producers. The cooperation deal which called for cuts in production by the producers was meant to stabilize oil prices. 

In a separate statement, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman rejected Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak’s similar claim that the Kingdom refused to extend the OPEC+ deal and withdrew from it.

Novak "was the first to declare to the media that all the participating countries are absolved of their commitments starting from the first of April," Prince Abdulaziz said in a statement.

He said Novak's statement led other countries to decide "to raise their production to offset the lower prices and compensate for their loss of returns." 

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia called for an urgent meeting of oil exporters after US President Donald Trump said he expected the Kingdom and Russia to cut production by 10-15 million barrels per day.

Prince Farhan said he was "hoping that Russia would take the right decisions in the urgent meeting" so that a "fair agreement that restores the desired balance of oil markets" could be achieved.

The global oil market has crashed, with prices falling to $34 a barrel from $65 at the beginning of the year, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Fuel demand has dropped by roughly a third, or 30 million barrels per day, as billions of people worldwide restrict their movements.

A global deal to reduce production by as much as 10 million to 15 million barrels per day would require participation from nations that do not exert state control over output, including the United States, now the world’s largest producer of crude.

A meeting of OPEC and allies such as Russia has been scheduled for April 6, but details were thin on the exact distribution of production cuts. No time has yet been set for the meeting, OPEC sources said.