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Pompeo urges Riyadh to 'stabilise energy markets'

In call with MBS, US secretary of state also thanks Saudi Arabia for its 'partnership' against Iran
Iran's death toll from Covid-19 surpasses 2,000 on Wednesday (Reuters/File photo)
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Washington

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a phone call with Saudi Arabia's Mohammed bin Salman and called on the powerful crown prince to "reassure global energy and financial markets" amid the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The call on Tuesday came a week after Republican senators rebuked the kingdom for flooding the crude oil market, sending prices to record lows. 

"Secretary Pompeo and the crown prince focused on the need to maintain stability in global energy markets amid the worldwide response [to Covid-19]," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The secretary stressed that as a leader of the G20 and an important energy leader, Saudi Arabia has a real opportunity to rise to the occasion and reassure global energy and financial markets when the world faces serious economic uncertainty."

Earlier this month, Saudi Aramco, the kingdom's oil company, said it would increase crude production to maximum levels, after Riyadh and Moscow failed to reach an agreement on output cuts.

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Although the announcement has led to lower gas prices for American consumers, it shook the already volatile financial markets that are dealing with the uncertainty caused by the novel coronavirus. 

On Wednesday, Pompeo said on Twitter that he stressed to bin Salman that "all countries need to work together to contain the pandemic and stabilize energy markets".

Still, despite his call for global cooperation, both Pompeo and the State Department took a dig at Iran, which is struggling to control the deadly virus. 

"The secretary thanked the crown prince for Saudi Arabia's continued partnership in the face of the Iranian regime’s destabilising regional behavior," the State Department statement said.

Pompeo said that he was "thankful" for Riyadh's partnership against threats posed by Tehran.

Washington has been facing calls from world leaders and rights groups to lift its sanctions against Iran to allow the Islamic Republic to better combat the deadly pandemic. 

US President Donald Trump and his top aides, especially Pompeo, have claimed that US measures do not affect Iran's ability to fight the spread of the virus because they do not apply specifically to medicine and humanitarian aid. 

Iran's death toll from Covid-19 surpassed 2,000 on Wednesday with more than 25,000 confirmed cases.