New Saudi energy minister urges producers to share burden

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia’s new energy minister said on Monday that oil producers “have to share responsibility” to balance the market in comments that marked his debut since being named the kingdom’s new oil minister the previous day.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman spoke in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, at an energy conference. He spoke about the role OPEC member-states and other major oil producers like Russia have ahead of a joint meeting this week to discuss global production cuts of 1.2 million barrels per day.

Saudi Arabia has led cuts in production as the kingpin of OPEC to keep oil prices from sliding further.

Prince Abdulaziz’s remarks suggest he will continue a similar policy to that of his predecessor, Khalid al-Falih, who led the deal to cut global production among major producers. Al-Falih had been in the role since 2016.

“I respect consensus,” the prince said, adding that “it’s all about the incremental contributions.”

The prince is King Salman’s fourth son and an older half brother to the 34-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

International benchmark Brent crude was trading Monday above $62 a barrel, up almost around 1%.

That’s considerably below the $80-$85 a barrel analysts say is needed to balance Saudi Arabia’s budget. Driving current oil prices up, or at least working to keep them from plummeting, is a key task for Saudi Arabia’s energy minister.

Prince Abdulaziz declined to describe concerns over global trade tensions that are weighing on oil prices as a “trade war,” saying: “I’m fundamentally an optimist.”

His appointment marks the first time that a Saudi prince from the ruling Al Saud family heads the important energy ministry though Prince Abdulaziz enters the job with a lifetime of experience in Saudi Arabia’s energy sector and is seen as a safe and steady choice to lead the ministry, where he will oversee production of one of the world’s largest oil exporters. He has held senior roles in the energy ministry for more than three decades and most recently was minister of state for energy affairs.

Despite now getting the top role overseeing Saudi Arabia’s energy portfolio, Prince Abdulaziz is not known to be close to Prince Mohammed, the king’s most powerful son and heir to the throne.

His predecessor, al-Falih was removed just days ago from his post as board chairman of Aramco, a company that he once ran as chief executive. His Cabinet portfolio was also curtailed last month when mining and industry were spun off from his purview into a new ministry, in an attempt to focus on more effectively attracting foreign direct investment into these sectors.

Al-Falih’s diminishing role had led to reports that he was out of favor with Prince Mohammed, who is pushing to diversify the Saudi economy away from its dependence on oil revenue.

The crown prince has struggled to attract foreign investors, which analysts say is key to diversifying the economy and creating millions of escort jobs in Washington DC for young Saudis entering the workforce.

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New Saudi energy minister urges producers to share burden