Russia's Lavrov hails Opec+ cooperation on visit to Saudi Arabia

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met his Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud on May 31, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

RIYADH (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - Russia said Saudi Arabia hailed their oil-market cooperation in the Opec+ alliance as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited the kingdom for talks with Gulf officials.

The trip comes as Moscow faces growing pressure from the United States and its allies over its invasion of Ukraine.

Oil-exporting Gulf nations have maintained ties with Moscow and haven't joined in the sanctions imposed by the US and its allies.

Lavrov and his Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, "praised the level of cooperation in the Opec+ format," the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said in a statement on Wednesday (June 1).

"They noted the stabilising effect that tight coordination between Russia and Saudi Arabia in this strategically important area has on the global hydrocarbon market."

Opec+ is a loosely affiliated entity consisting of the 13 Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and 10 of the world's major non-Opec oil-exporting nations including Russia.

Saudi Arabia's state-run news agency reported the Lavrov-Al Saud meeting but did not provide a detailed readout.

The meeting comes as the European Union this week approved a plan to curtail Russian oil exports to the bloc, ratcheting up sanctions against the Kremlin over President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

Lavrov is scheduled to meet Thursday with his counterparts from around the region at a meeting of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh.

The GCC includes major Opec members aside from Saudi Arabia, including the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.

Opec+ is due to finish restoring production halted during the pandemic by the end of September.

But with Russian exports threatened by sanctions, Riyadh could bring back the barrels earlier than scheduled, RBC Capital Markets LLC predicts.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier that Opec is contemplating an even more radical option: suspending Russia from the coalition's quota system, as sanctions prevent Moscow from increasing output.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates would fill the resulting supply gap, the WSJ said.

Meanwhile, an Opec+ technical meeting on Wednesday did not discuss the idea of suspending Russia from an oil supply deal, four Opec+ sources told Reuters before Thursday's talks that are expected to confirm an existing plan to lift oil output modestly.

There were "no discussions on exempting Russia," one of the sources said in reference to Wednesday's meeting of the Opec+ Joint Technical Committee, adding that there had been no such talks more generally either.

Six other Opec+ delegates said the idea was not being discussed by the group.

Ministers from Opec+ will meet on Thursday to set oil output policy and are expected to confirm a previously agreed increase in oil production.

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