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OPEC+ emergency meeting faces delay as Russia rift with Saudi grows


OPEC+ hoping to get US, others to join output cuts

Trump said 'free market' would determine oil market

Putin's comments on Saudi Arabia draw fire

London — OPEC and its allies are regrouping over the weekend following signals from US President Donald Trump that American producers would not be joining any production cut and a rift between Saudi Arabia and Russia put Monday's planned summit on the ropes.

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Delegates said the meeting of OPEC, Russia and other major oil producers could be pushed back to Wednesday, or Thursday, to give them more time to strategize how to combat the oil market crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Ministers had been contemplating plans to claw back 10 million b/d – about 10% of global supply – contingent on the US and other countries, such as Canada and Brazil, joining in.

Trump, however, said late Friday after meeting with the heads of several US oil companies that he was not inclined to force them into mandatory output cuts.

"These are great companies and they'll figure it out," he said in a press briefing. "It's a free market."

Blame game

Delegates also said Saudi Arabia felt burnt by comments Friday from Russian President Vladimir Putin that the kingdom was to blame for the crash in oil prices.

In the latest round of finger pointing between the two countries, Putin said that Saudi Arabia was boosting its production to target US shale oil companies, while maintaining that Russia was not interested in taking US market share.

"This is apparently connected with the attempts of our partners from Saudi Arabia to get rid of shale oil competitors. In order to do this, the price should be below $40/b, and in this sense, they achieve their aim to a certain extent," Putin said.

"We never set such a goal," he added.

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry fired back Saturday, calling the comments "devoid of truth" and a "distortion of facts," in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Monday's OPEC+ meeting, called by Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz, is to be conducted by webinar, and no time has been set.

OPEC+ consists of OPEC, Russia, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Oman, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Bahrain, Sudan, South Sudan, and Brunei, who have been coordinating a series of production cuts aimed at propping up the market since 2017.

But the alliance was nearly terminated at its last meeting March 6, when Russia rejected a Saudi-led OPEC proposal for deeper cuts to combat the coronavirus' impact on the oil market, unleashing the current price war.

Intervention by Trump, who said he had spoken to both Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in recent days, has brought the coalition back to the table, but Friday's events appear to have set back any progress.

Delegates said talks would continue through the weekend.