The Trump administration will appoint Victoria Coates as special energy representative to Saudi Arabia as Washington struggles to deal with a global oil price crash threatening US energy producers, an Energy Department official said on Monday.
Ms Coates, one of President Donald Trump’s longest-serving security aides, moved from the White House in February to become a senior adviser to Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette.
“Coates will be based in Saudi Arabia to ensure the Department of Energy has an added presence in the region,” the official said.
“While her assignment comes at a pivotal time for global oil markets, it has been in the works for a while.”
Ms Coates’ start date is unknown because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Mr Trump, who is running for re-election in November, has said he wants to find middle ground with the oil price crash.
Earlier in March, he tweeted that low petrol prices were good for drivers.
Last week, as low oil prices threatened domestic drillers with bankruptcy, he said he would become involved in the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia “at the appropriate time".
Oil prices have dropped by more than half in the past two weeks as Saudi Arabia and Russia began their price war and the coronavirus pandemic destroyed demand.
US crude oil edged higher in after-hours trading on Monday to nearly $24 a barrel, after tumbling 29 per cent last week in its steepest slide since the US entered the First Gulf War in 1991.
Ms Coates, who was Senator Ted Cruz’s national security adviser for four years and a foreign policy adviser to former Texas governor Rick Perry, joined the Trump White House from its start.
She is also an art historian.
Ms Coates was deputy national security adviser for Mr Trump and specialised on the Middle East, particularly Iran.
She will work in the kingdom for months at least alongside State Department officials and energy attache Scott Hutchins.
On Monday, Mr Brouillette said the administration would soon make a diplomatic push on stabilising energy markets.
A US-Saudi oil alliance was one of “many, many ideas” that had been discussed, but no decisions have been made on “anything of that nature", he told Bloomberg TV.