Biden to 'review' relationship with Saudi Arabia after Opec+ production cuts

A leading senator vowed to block military sales to Riyadh on Monday

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman greets US President Joe Biden at Al Salam Palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in July. AP
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President Joe Biden will review Washington's relationship with Saudi Arabia after the OPEC+ alliance announced last week it would slash oil production, White House National Security spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday.

"The president believes that we should review the bilateral relationship with Saudi Arabia and to take a look to see if that relationship is where it needs to be and that it is serving our national security interests," Mr Kirby told reporters.

Mr Kirby spoke a day after Bob Menendez, the chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations committee, vowed to "freeze all aspects” of Washington's co-operation with Saudi Arabia and threatened to block all future weapons sales.

Mr Kirby said the president's review would include an assessment of whether the bilateral relationship with Saudi Arabia is "serving our national security interests".

Mr Biden is "willing to discuss this relationship with members of Congress," Mr Kirby said.

Opec+ — which includes Russia — announced it would slash its November output by two million barrels per day.

This was its biggest production cut since the start of the pandemic in 2020 and led to a jump in oil prices.

Critics of the decision in Washington have framed it as a move that benefits Russia, as its war with Ukraine escalates.

Mr Biden previously expressed disappointment over the production cut, which led to a surge in oil prices as the US heads into critical midterm elections.

When asked why the White House is specifically concerned with Saudi Arabia and not other Opec+ members, Mr Kirby pointed to Saudi leadership within the alliance.

"In light of the recent decision by OPEC, and Saudi Arabia's leadership, [Mr Biden] does believe that this is a good time to re-evaluate and see what that relationship is gonna look like going forward."

Speaking shortly after Mr Kirby's comments were aired by CNN, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said: “Our relationship with the United States has been institutionalised since it was established.”

“The Opec+ decision was purely economic and was taken unanimously by the [organisation’s] member states.”

“Opec+ members acted responsibly and took the appropriate decision,” Prince Faisal told Al Arabiya.

Updated: October 12, 2022, 8:17 AM