The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has delayed a meeting aimed at ending the oil price war, as Riyadh and Moscow trade barbs about who’s to blame for the collapse in oil prices.
The alliance is tentatively aiming to hold the virtual gathering on April 9 instead of today, as it previously intended, a delegate familiar with the matter said, Bloomberg reported.
Producers need more time for negotiations, said another. Beyond the alliance, Saudi Arabia and Russia have indicated they want other oil countries to join in any output cuts, complicating efforts to call a meeting, the delegate said, asking not to be named discussing diplomatic matters.
The delay came hours after Saudi Arabia made a pointed diplomatic attack on Russian President Vladimir Putin, opening a fresh rift between the world’s two largest oil exporters and jeopardising a deal to cut production.
In a statement early on Saturday, the Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said comments by Putin laying blame on Riyadh for the end of the OPEC+ pact between the two countries in March were “fully devoid of truth.”
The direct criticism of Putin, echoed in a statement by Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, threatens a new agreement to stabilise an oil market that’s been thrown into chaos by the global fight against coronavirus. President Donald Trump had devoted hours of telephone diplomacy last week to brokering a truce in the month-long price war between Moscow and Riyadh.
“We always remained skeptical about this wider deal as U.S. producers cannot be mandated to cut,” said Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at consultant Energy Aspects Ltd. “If so, Russia doesn’t come to the table. And if everyone doesn’t cut, Saudi Arabia’s long held stance is that they will not cut either.”
The prospect of a new deal spurred a 50 per cent recovery in benchmark oil prices last week as traders saw some relief from the catastrophic oversupply caused by a lockdown of the world’s largest economies, in a bit to halt the coronavirus pandemic. With billions of people forced to stay at home, demand for gasoline, diesel and jet has collapsed by about as much 35 million barrels a day.
“Russia was the one that refused the agreement” in early March, the Saudi foreign ministry said. “The kingdom and 22 other countries were trying to to persuade Russia to make further cuts and extend the agreement.”
Sponsored by Trump, who’s fretting about the future of America’s shale industry, momentum for a new agreement had built in recent days.