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Saudi 'ready' to freeze oil output, but only if Iran and others do

Deputy crown prince's remarks come ahead of a key oil producers meeting this month to decide how to stabilise prices
A petrol station in Jeddah (AFP)

Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia will only freeze output if other key producers, including Iran, take a similar measure, its deputy crown prince told Bloomberg News in an interview published on Friday.

"If all countries agree to freeze production, we're ready," Mohammed bin Salman said. "If there is anyone that decides to raise their production, then we will not reject any opportunity that knocks on our door."

His remarks come ahead of a meeting of major oil producers led by Russia and Saudi Arabia set to take place in Doha on 17 April to discuss measures to stabilise prices, including a proposal not to pump out oil above a certain level.

Iran indicated it was "ready to participate" in the meeting and demanded an exemption from the freeze in order to boost its exports, according to Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak.

Oil prices are being hit in part owing to the return of Iranian crude to markets after crippling economic sanctions on Tehran were lifted following last year's nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

King Salman's powerful son, who heads Saudi Arabia's main economic coordinating council, told Bloomberg that "without a doubt," Iran has to freeze its output. 

"If all countries including Iran, Russia, Venezuela, OPEC countries and all main producers decide to freeze production, we will be among them," he said.

Riyadh severed diplomatic ties with Tehran this year after demonstrators stormed the kingdom's missions in Iran following Saudi Arabia's execution of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others.

Both regional heavyweights back rival groups in several conflicts rocking the Middle East. 

The upcoming meeting in Doha is a follow-up to talks in February between Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela in which they first mooted the output freeze.

Prices have collapsed from levels above $100 seen in mid-2014 largely owing to supply outrunning demand as global economies, particularly China, suffer a growth slowdown.

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