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Iraq calls for emergency OPEC+ meeting amid oil price crash


Iraq sends letter to Barkindo, Arkab

Front-month Brent closes at $28.66/b

London — Iraq's oil minister, Thamir al-Ghadhban, on Tuesday called on OPEC and its allies to convene an extraordinary meeting to address the recent plunge in prices.

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In a letter to OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo seen by S&P Global Platts, Ghadhban asked for the OPEC+ coalition to meet "to discuss all possible ways to come up with serious and immediate actions for the purpose of rebalancing the market and mitigate the current deteriorating situation."

The letter was also copied to Algerian energy minister Mohamed Arkab, who holds OPEC's rotating presidency and has the power to call extraordinary meetings in consultation with the secretary general.

Barkindo and Arkab could not immediately be reached for comment, although an Algerian official said the minister had received the letter. OPEC's next scheduled meeting is June 9 in Vienna.

A meeting before then would seem unlikely, after the coalition's most recent gathering less than two weeks ago on March 6 ended in acrimony, with non-OPEC partner Russia rejecting a Saudi-led OPEC proposal to deepen the alliance's production cuts.

The current cut accord expires at the end of the month, and both Saudi Arabia and Russia have signaled plans to boost production, causing oil prices to nosedive.

In particular, Saudi officials have said they will increase their crude exports by some one-third to more than 10 million b/d in the coming months, adding barrels to a market whose demand is already weakened by the coronavirus pandemic.

Front-month ICE Brent futures closed Tuesday at $28.66/b, down more than 40% since that OPEC+ meeting.

A non-Gulf delegate told Platts that the travel restrictions and quarantine regulations imposed by governments would make a meeting difficult, noting that a delegate level technical committee meeting scheduled for this week had already been canceled when Saudi Arabia said it would not send any representatives.

"With the coronavirus, it seems impossible to organize an emergency meeting of OPEC meeting in the next few days or in April," the delegate said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Indeed, it's really difficult to convince [the] Saudis to accept an extraordinary meeting, even by videoconference."