Saudi, U.S. Energy Ministers Express Concern Over Threats to Maritime Traffic in the Gulf

ships at anchor
Photo: By G-Valeriy / Shutterstock

reuters logo CAIRO, Aug 6 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih met U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Tuesday in Washington and said both sides expressed concern over threats targeting freedom of maritime traffic in the Arabian Gulf.

“The meeting… dealt with the two countries’ concern over threats targeting freedom of maritime traffic in the Arabian Gulf. We affirmed our determination to work together to ensure the security of global energy supplies,” Falih said in a series of tweets.

Tensions have risen between Iran and the West since last year, when the United States pulled out of an international agreement that curbed the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in return for an easing of economic sanctions on Iran.

Fueling fears of a Middle East war with global repercussions, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized British tanker Stena Impero near the Strait of Hormuz in July for alleged marine violations, two weeks after British forces captured an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar accused of violating sanctions on Syria.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned on Tuesday that shipping might not be safe in the Strait of Hormuz, adding that “war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”

Falih also said he discussed the condition of the global oil market with Perry and stressed the willingness of Saudi Arabia to stabilize it. “In this context, I have affirmed the commitment of OPEC members and non-OPEC producers to coordinate production and strive to achieve a balance in the oil market,” said Falih, whose country is the de facto leader of OPEC.

OPEC, Russia and other non-members, known as OPEC+, have been reducing oil supply since 2017 to prevent prices from sliding amid increasing competition from the United States, which has overtaken Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s top producer.

The alliance agreed in July to extend oil output cuts until March 2020, shrugging off pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump to pump more.

Benchmark Brent crude hit a peak in April, after Washington tightened sanctions on OPEC members Venezuela and Iran, causing their oil exports to drop. In the past week, it lost more than 9% on trade concerns.

The United States reimposed sanctions on Iran in November after pulling out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and six world powers. In a bid to cut Iran’s sales to zero, Washington in May ended sanctions waivers for importers of Iranian oil.

(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk in Washington, Editing by Dan Grebler)

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