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US, Saudi Arabia say they are working together on oil markets amid Gulf tensions

Dubai — The US and Saudi Arabia are working together to ensure the security of global petroleum supplies amid increased tensions in the Persian Gulf, according to Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih and the US Department of Energy.

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Falih and US energy secretary Rick Perry met Tuesday in Washington to discuss the stability of oil markets and the kingdom's hosting of the G20 presidency, among other issues, the US Department of Energy said in a statement posted on its website.

"Secretary Perry and Minister al-Falih reaffirmed that as two of the world's top suppliers of oil, the United States and Saudi Arabia will continue to work together to ensure that world oil markets remain well supplied to offset disruptions, especially in light of Iran's aggressive efforts to destabilize them," the department said.

Tension in the Persian Gulf has escalated since May with the sabotage of six oil tankers, which the US has blamed on Iran, and Tehran's seizure of a British-flagged vessel last month in retaliation for the detention of an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar. The US imposed stiff sanctions against Iran, with the aim of pushing its oil exports to zero.

For his part, Falih said on Twitter that the kingdom is keen to guarantee oil supplies and to work to ensure there is a balanced oil market.

"We discussed the petroleum market situation and the kingdom's keenness for its stability," Falih tweeted on Tuesday.

"During the meeting, the two countries addressed their concern regarding the threats targeting the freedom of maritime transport in the Arabian Gulf. We asserted our resolve to work together to ensure the security of global energy supplies."

The US has launched Operation Sentinel to drum up global support for policing the Strait of Hormuz, the world's most important chokepoint where daily oil flow averaged 21 million b/d or the equivalent of about 21% of global petroleum liquids consumption in 2018, according to the US Energy Information Administration. The US Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain, is responsible for about 2.5 million square miles of area including the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, North Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea.

US President Donald Trump has questioned the country's role protecting oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz, arguing that the expensive military presence benefits "very rich" Middle East exporters and Asian importers when the US no longer needs the oil.

Strait of Hormuz

-- Dania Saadi, dania.el.saadi@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Claudia Carpenter, claudia.carpenter@spglobal.com