The cuts are widely seen as a political blow to President Biden ahead of a harsh winter and a month before the midterm elections.
In response to the cuts, Biden said he would review the US relationship with Saudi Arabia and there would be “consequences” for the kingdom, one of the 13 member states of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The oil cartel was joined by 10 partner countries, including Russia, to form OPEC Plus. A White House spokesperson said Biden is also open to proposals made by a group of US lawmakers that would sanction Saudi Arabia, including by limiting security cooperation and arms sales.
The White House was pressuring Saudi Arabia to produce more oil to offset the global shortage and increase prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Biden visited Saudi Arabia in July and met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s daily leader – ignoring criticism from human rights activists who said such a meeting would reward the crown prince for his repressive tactics, including that of US intelligence. He said he was involved in the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Biden aides emphasized that the purpose of the trip was to improve US-Saudi relations, not to ensure that the kingdom would continue to produce oil at a certain level. Muhammad denied ordering Khashoggi’s murder.
The Saudi statement on Thursday indicated that the Biden administration had asked the kingdom to postpone the decision to cut oil prices for a month, which would have delayed the repercussions of the cuts until after the US midterm elections. Such a delay “would have had negative economic consequences,” the statement said.
The statement denied that Saudi Arabia was solely responsible for the decision to cut oil production, saying that these measures were based on “consensus.”
“These results are based solely on economic considerations that take into account maintaining the balance of supply and demand in the oil markets, as well as aiming to reduce fluctuations that do not serve the interests of consumers and producers,” she added.
The Saudis also responded to criticism that the decision to cut production amounted to siding with Russia in its war in Ukraine.
“Any attempts to distort the facts about the Kingdom’s position on the crisis in Ukraine are unfortunate and will not change the Kingdom’s principled position,” the statement said.
Sarah Dadouch in Beirut contributed to this report.
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