Opec+ abandons oil policy meeting after Saudi-UAE clash

The failure of the talks helped to drive up international benchmark Brent crude. PHOTO: REUTERS

DUBAI (REUTERS) - Opec+ ministers called off oil output talks on Monday (July 5) after clashing last week when the United Arab Emirates rejected a proposed eight-month extension to output curbs, meaning no deal to boost production has been agreed.

Saudi Energy Minister, Prince Abdulaziz Salman, had called for "compromise and rationality" to secure a deal after two days of failed discussions last week.

But four Opec+ sources said there had been no progress.

Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) secretary-general Mohammad Barkindo said in a statement on Monday the meeting had been cancelled, without a date for the next one being agreed.

The failure of the talks, which had partly been about an increase in oil output from next month, helped to drive up international benchmark Brent crude, which was trading 1.1 per cent higher, at above $77 a barrel.

Some Opec+ sources said there would be no oil output increase next month, while others said a new meeting would take place in the coming days and they believed there will be a boost the month.

"There is no decision about August and discussions still continue. The market needs that oil," one source familiar with the talks said.

Oil prices are at the highest since 2018 and have already prompted concerns inflation could derail a global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Opec+ agreed to record output cuts of almost 10 million barrels per day (bpd) last year, about 10 per cent of world output, as the pandemic hit. The curbs have been gradually relaxed and stand at about 5.8 million bpd.

The UAE, sources said, on Friday accepted a proposal from Saudi Arabia and other Opec+ members to raise output in stages by about two million bpd from next month to December but rejected extending remaining cuts to the end of next year from a current end date of April without adjusting its current baseline production.

The UAE is upset about the low baseline from which its production cuts are calculated and wants it raised. Abu Dhabi has invested billions of dollars to increase its production capacity and says its baseline was set too low when Opec+ originally forged their pact.

On Monday, Opec+ sources said the UAE's position was unchanged. They said a ministerial panel chaired by Saudi Arabia and Russia, the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committtee, needed more time to discuss the issue.

The UAE has said it was not alone in seeking a higher baseline as others, including Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait and Nigeria, had requested and received new ones since the deal was first agreed last year.

Decisions in Opec+, which groups Opec with Russia and other big producers, must be unanimous.

The dispute reflects a growing divergence between Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The two nations had built a regional alliance, combining financial and military muscle to fight a conflict in Yemen and project power elsewhere. But the UAE has withdrawn from action in Yemen, while Saudi Arabia has sought to challenge the UAE's dominance as the region's business and tourism hub.

The UAE in August last year also agreed to normalise relations with Israel, while Saudi Arabia has no official diplomatic relations with Israel.

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