DUBAI: A crucial meeting of OPEC+ producers on Monday aimed at cutting output and stabilizing the global oil market has been postponed.
“Monday is too early,” a Saudi oil official told Arab News. “OPEC needed more time to work out facts and figures.”
The “virtual” meeting, which may now take place later this week, is between 11 OPEC members led by Saudi Arabia and 10 other oil producers led by Russia.
It follows an “urgent” call by Saudi Arabia last week, and an intense round of telephone diplomacy between Riyadh, Moscow and Washington.
One key issue is to determine the level at which any proposed oil production cuts would begin. Saudi Arabia has ramped up output to record levels in recent weeks.
After a meeting on Friday between President Vladimir Putin and Russian oil executives, Saudi Arabia was accused of having reneged on the previous OPEC+ agreement, and starting the price war that has destabilized global oil markets.
The accusation prompted a hard-hitting response from the Kingdom, with both Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman describing the Russian comments as “utterly devoid of truth.”
Behind the spat, there are serious challenges if OPEC+ is to make any progress toward the cuts of up to 15 million barrels per day “expected” by US President Donald Trump.
Despite their differences, both Saudi Arabia and Russia would be unlikely to take on the full burden of cuts without matching reductions by the US. That prospect receded after a meeting between oil industry executives in the White House at which Trump said he would leave the US oil industry to “the free market.”
Free market economics will be on show in the Kingdom on Sunday when Saudi Aramco discloses the price it will charge customers for oil in May. Last month it offered deep discounts to market prices. Demand has fallen substantially since then — down 30 percent according to some oil economists — so further discounts can be expected.