OPEC meets as Trump calls for oil taps to be kept on

Oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said on Wednesday evening as he arrived in Vienna: “We must be excluded from any decision to cut production as long as illegal US sanctions are not lifted.”

Stephen Brennock of the London-based brokerage PVM Oil, said that additional cuts were “a virtual shoo-in.”

OPEC inaction “would trigger a sell-off frenzy of biblical proportions and safeguard the return of a global oil glut. The only unknown at this stage is the volume of production cuts,” he said.

OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia, in particular, finds itself in a delicate position in the wake of the murder of opposition journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Trump has continued to support the kingdom, despite worldwide outrage over the murder.

Riyadh, which is itself in favour of higher prices, will therefore be keen not to incur the US leader’s wrath.

“The big unknown is how President Trump will react to any production cuts,” said analysts at ING.

Delicate situation  

“The concern for the market is that the US administration will use the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as leverage,” they argued.

“While we believe that President Trump will be reluctant to escalate the situation, the Saudis are likely to choose the wording of any statement with regards to cuts very carefully.”

UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo pointed out that US shale producers also need oil prices to be high to ensure the profitability of their operations.

Negotiations between the OPEC members could be fraught, however, as some members feel that Saudi Arabia wields too much clout in setting policy.

Iran has accused Saudi Arabia of being in thrall to the US.

In a surprise move on Monday, Qatar — which has been an OPEC member since 1961 — said it would quit the cartel next month in order to focus on gas production.

Doha accounts for only around two percent of OPEC output.

Qatar minister Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi said he had met with a number of other OPEC ministers, but not his Saudi Arabian colleague.

“I don’t think they want to meet me. They are blockading our country,” he told journalists.

Qatar has been isolated by a group of countries led by Saudi Arabia since June 2017, in the worst political fallout between the energy-rich Gulf powers. 

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