A meeting between the foreign ministers of OPEC’s Iran and Saudi Arabia was delayed in part due to discord over falling crude prices, said Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, made an invitation in May to Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zarif for talks in the kingdom with his Saudi counterpart Prince Saud al-Faisal. The visit, postponed a few months ago because of differences over the Syria conflict, has been pushed back again “due to oil-price declines,” Amir-Abdollahian said on Al-Alam state-run television, according to its website.
Oil producers in the Persian Gulf region, including Saudi Arabia, “are expected to make efforts to stop the fall in oil prices and not let the decline have a lasting impact on oil-producing nations’ economies,” Amir-Abdollahian said, according to Iran’s Al-Alam. Saudi Arabia “should follow correct policies that are in the interest of the region,” he said. Brent crude has dropped 53 percent in the past year.
Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shiite-led Iran are at opposite ends of some of the Middle East’s major crises, including in Syria. Saudi Arabia backs rebels seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Iran. Saudi Arabia and neighboring Kuwait opposed Iran’s unsuccessful effort to persuade the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to cut output at its last meeting on Nov. 27.
Iran’s crude exports have been curbed by international sanctions imposed because of the country’s nuclear program. The country produced 2.77 million barrels a day of oil in December, down from an average of 3.58 million in 2011, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
Brent, a benchmark for more than half the world’s oil, has tumbled amid global oversupply, which the United Arab Emirates and Qatar estimate at about 2 million barrels a day, and a slowdown in growth in China. Futures dropped 1.3 percent today to $49.50 a barrel by 8:43 a.m. in London.
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh described the collapse as “a political plot” intended to weaken his nation, at a Jan. 4 conference in Tehran. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Jan. 13 that nations responsible for the price drop will “regret it,” without specifying any.
“We hear that some countries in the region have schemed with nations beyond the region to bring oil prices down,” Amir-Abdollahian said. “We expect Saudi Arabia to play its role on the issue of oil prices to help regional countries. Unfortunately, in past years we have witnessed a series of strategic mistakes in the region,” he said, including “intentional or unintentional cooperation with some countries outside the region to decrease oil prices.”
Iran has told Saudi officials that “enemies of the region must be prevented from harming the developing economies of regional countries,” Amir-Abdollahian said.
Zarif’s planned trip to Saudi Arabia was first delayed over “unacceptable comments” Saudi’s Prince Saud made about the Syria conflict, Amir-Abdollahian said, without elaborating.