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Biden ‘reviews’ ties with Saudi Arabia amid fury over oil cuts

Riyadh says cutting oil production is “purely economic” as critics in Washington accuse it of bolstering Moscow.

Washington, D.C. – The Biden administration has announced it is “reassessing” ties with Saudi Arabia as US lawmakers have become increasingly critical of the Gulf Kingdom after a group of major oil producers, including Riyadh, decided to cut oil production.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday that the US is “reviewing” its relationship with Saudi Arabia in consultation with lawmakers in Washington and allies abroad.

“We’re checking where we stand; We will be monitoring very closely and speaking to partners and stakeholders,” Price told reporters.

“Our guiding principle will be to ensure that we have a relationship that serves our best interests. This is not a bilateral relationship that has always served our interests.”

He added that President Joe Biden had previously spoken of the need to “recalibrate” ties with Saudi Arabia to better serve the US – a position Price says recently has been underscored by recently announced oil cuts.

OPEC+, which brings together the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers, namely Russia, announced the restrictions last week, which will likely boost gasoline prices for US consumers ahead of the crucial midterm elections.

OPEC’s critics have argued that the production cuts are raising oil prices around the world, giving Russia more revenue to continue funding its war in Ukraine, despite Western sanctions on its economy.

On Tuesday, Price accused OPEC of supporting the war in Ukraine “against the interests of the American people.”

Saudi Arabia has stressed that the Oct. 5 decision to cut production by two million barrels a day is aimed at stabilizing the oil market – and not pushing up prices – amid interest rate hikes by central banks and the prospect of a global recession.

Some from Saudi Arabia Supporters have also argued that the security relationship between Washington and Riyadh is mutually beneficial – not a US favour.

Still, leading US Democrats have criticized OPEC+ members over the decision, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), US allies and key players in the group.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby also told CNN earlier in the day that Biden was “ready” to reevaluate ties with Riyadh.

“And given the OPEC decision, I think he’s there, and he’s willing to work with Congress to think through how that relationship should look going forward,” Kirby said.

Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud told Al Arabiya on Tuesday the OPEC+ decision was a “purely economic” measure taken with the unanimous approval of members of the group.

Bin Farhan also hailed US-Saudi Arabia relations as “strategic”.

“Military cooperation between Riyadh and Washington serves the interests of both countries and has contributed to stability in the region,” he said, as reported on the news agency’s Arabic website.

But in Washington, many lawmakers have questioned the alliance with Riyadh.

On Monday, US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez called for a freeze on arms sales to Saudi Arabia. “I will not give the green light to any cooperation with Riyadh until the kingdom reassesses its position on the war in Ukraine. Enough is enough,” he said in a statement.

Separately, on Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal announced a bill to freeze US arms sales to the kingdom for a year over oil cuts, in what he called a “deeply offensive, destructive mistake” that supports Russia’s invasion of Ukraine .

Tensions between Saudi Arabia and the US come three months after Biden visited Saudi Arabia and met with its leaders, including the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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