Biden reassesses U.S.-Saudi relationship after OPEC decision

WASHINGTON, Oct 11 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden will begin a review of the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia after OPEC+ announced last week that it would cut oil output due to U.S. opposition, officials said on Tuesday.

The announcement came a day after Sen. Bob Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a powerful Democrat, said the U.S. must immediately freeze all aspects of U.S. cooperation with Saudi Arabia, including arms sales.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said a review was imminent, but gave no timetable for action or information on who would lead the reassessment. She said the U.S. will monitor the situation closely “in the coming weeks and months.”

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OPEC+ announced plans to cut production last week after weeks of lobbying by U.S. officials against the cuts. The United States has accused Saudi Arabia of bowing to Russia, which opposes Western caps on Russian oil prices due to Ukraine’s invasion.

U.S. officials have been quietly trying to persuade their largest Arab partner to reject the idea of ​​production cuts, but Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has not wavered.

During Biden’s July visit to Jeddah, bin Salman and Biden clashed over the death of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, according to people familiar with the matter.

The crown prince approved an operation to arrest or kill Saudi insider-turned-critic Khashoggi, who was murdered and dismembered by Saudi agents inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, U.S. intelligence said.

Prince Salman, 86, the son of King Salman, denied ordering the killing but admitted it took place “under my supervision”. Biden said in July that he told the prince he felt responsible.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Biden would work with Congress “to think about what this relationship should look like going forward.”

“And I think he’s going to be willing to start having those conversations right away. Frankly, I don’t think it’s something that has to wait or should wait longer,” Kirby added.

State Department spokesman Ned Price also said Tuesday that the Biden administration would not ignore Iran, a U.S. adversary and a fierce regional rival to Saudi Arabia, in its scrutiny.read more

Most U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia take into account the Iranian threat in the region.

“There are security challenges, some of which are coming from Iran. Of course, we’re not going to ignore the threat that Iran poses not only to the region, but also in some ways,” Price said.

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Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Mark Porter, Heather Timmons and Deepa Babington

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