Biden expects Saudi Arabia to take ‘further steps’ to boost oil supply

US President Joe Biden has said he expects Saudi Arabia to take ‘further steps’ to boost oil supplies in the ‘coming weeks’ following a meeting with the prince heir Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah.

Speaking after the meeting, Biden said he was doing “everything I could” to increase crude supplies and expected to be successful. “Saudi Arabia shares this urgency and based on our discussions today, I expect to see further steps in the coming weeks. »

American consumers could feel the effects of his visit to the oil-rich kingdom at the gas station in “a few more weeks”, Biden added.

However, a Saudi official reaffirmed the kingdom’s stance on production after the meeting, saying it would be decided based on demand.

“Oil is not a political weapon, oil is not a tank,” Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said. “You can’t point it at someone and shoot. Oil is a commodity.

He said the kingdom had increased production several times this year based on demand and would continue to reassess. “If you say we promised more oil, that means we are seeing an oil shortage,” he added. “If we see a shortage of oil, there will be more oil produced. »

Oil prices rose slightly on Friday due to a lack of detail in the US president’s remarks, who did not say whether Saudi Arabia had agreed to a production increase beyond supply increases. already planned.

International benchmark Brent traded up 2% to over $101 a barrel, while US oil marker West Texas Intermediate hit $97.60 in late New York afternoon trading.

OPEC increased output by phasing out deep supply cuts made when oil prices crashed during the coronavirus pandemic, and agreed last month to ramp up additional production in July and August. OPEC producers will meet again in early August, when Saudi Arabia and other members could discuss changes to production quotas.

“The odds were still low of an increase in production from this trip,” said Bob McNally, former White House adviser to George W Bush and head of Rapidan Energy Group. He said the administration still expects the Saudis and Emiratis to be able to increase production later this year if markets tighten. “But nothing is guaranteed. »

Biden traveled to the kingdom with U.S. gasoline prices near record highs despite earlier promises to make Saudi Arabia a ‘pariah’ following the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, which the CIA concluded that he was ordained by Prince Mohammed.

Aides had played down Biden’s chances of getting any specific oil announcements during the trip, but said they expected the visit to pay off in the future.

The US president arrived in Jeddah on Friday evening and greeted Crown Prince Mohammed, the kingdom’s daily ruler, with a fist bump that prompted a scathing rebuke from Hatice Cengiz, who was Khashoggi’s fiancée.

Writing on Twitter, she imagined what Khashoggi would post if he could: “Hey @POTUS is this the accountability you promised for my murder? The blood of MBS’s next victim is on your hands.

Biden said he raised Khashoggi’s death at the “top of the meeting” with Prince Mohammed and addressed other human rights concerns.

Recounting the meeting, Biden said Prince Mohammed claimed “he was not personally responsible” for the murder. “I indicated that I thought he was,” he added.

Saudi officials said the exchange over Khashoggi and human rights did not last long. Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi Ambassador to the United States, said Prince Mohammed told Biden “only individuals who were personally responsible. . . were judged”.

While the aides said the visit would aim to deepen Israel’s regional integration and bolster the US presence in the region, Biden is particularly focused on boosting oil production to rein in energy prices. up due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The president, who has been criticized by human rights groups during his visit, has in recent weeks downplayed meetings with Saudi leaders, saying he was attending a summit to encourage peace.

Asked to respond to Cengiz’s remarks, Biden said, “I didn’t come here to meet the crown prince. I came here to meet. . . nine nations, to meet the security and needs of the free world, especially the United States.

But in Riyadh, his presence is seen as an about-face and the recognition he needs to engage with Prince Mohammed, who could lead the kingdom for decades.

Biden was received at the airport in Jeddah, a Red Sea city, by the regional governor, in what Saudi officials said was standard protocol for a visiting head of state. It was, however, a relatively low-key reception compared to the reception given to former President Donald Trump in 2017.

After about three hours of meetings, Biden announced that Saudi Arabia and Israel had agreed to the transfer of multinational peacekeeping forces that had been stationed on two Red Sea islands – which Egypt had transferred to Israel. Saudi Arabia in 2017 – allowing Riyadh to take control of the territory.

This was agreed in exchange for Riyadh’s decision to open its skies to all flights to and from Israel, which was announced before Biden’s arrival in Jeddah.

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