Doha / AFP
Energy giants Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed on Tuesday to freeze oil output to try to stabilise the market if other major producers do the same, Qatar’s oil minister said. The Saudi and Russian oil ministers, along with their Venezuelan and Qatari counterparts, “agreed to freeze the production at (the) January level provided that other major producers follow suit,” said Qatar’s Energy Minister Mohammed bin Saleh al-Sada.
“This step is meant to stabilise the market,” said Sada, who is acting president of the OPEC oil cartel, describing the meeting in Doha as “successful”. Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said: “This is the beginning of a process which we will
assess in the next few months and decide whether we need other steps to stabilise and approve the market.
“We don’t want significant gyrations in prices. We don’t want a reduction in supply. We want to meet demand and we want a stable oil price,” he said. Benchmark Brent North Sea crude oil was up 81 cents at $34.20 a barrel in London trading following the announcement. Oil prices have tumbled about 70 percent since June 2014, hit by oversupply, sluggish demand and worries about the global economic outlook.
They have also been pressured by the return of Iran to world markets after the lifting of international sanctions linked to its nuclear programme. Other producers, both OPEC and non-OPEC members, are expected to “start intensive communications almost straight away,” said the Qatari minister, who will lead the talks.
The 13-nation OPEC oil cartel, of which Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Qatar and Iran are members, has refrained from cutting output as it looks to maintain market share in the face of competition from US shale oil producers. Russia â€” which is not a member of the oil cartel â€” has seen its recession-hit economy damaged further by the slump in oil prices.
Naimi said that the four countries who met Tuesday agree “that freezing now at that January level is adequate for the market.”