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US Senators Hold Call With Saudi Officials Urging Them to Put Oil Cut in Motion

FILE - Dan Sullivan is pictured on the night he was elected to the U.S. Senate, Nov. 4, 2014, in Anchorage, Alaska. Sullivan says Saudi Arabia "needs to take sustainable, concrete actions to significantly cut oil production."

Republican U.S. senators from oil states who recently introduced legislation to remove American troops from Saudi Arabia said on Saturday they had spoken with three officials from the kingdom and urged them to take concrete action to cut crude output.

Saudi Arabia and Russia were close to finalizing a deal with other producers in the informal OPEC+ group to cut crude output by a record 10 million barrels per day (bpd), or about 10 percent of global output.

Oil prices had fallen to 18-year lows as the coronavirus outbreak closed down economies across the world and after Saudi Arabia and Russia had boosted output in a race for market share.

Sullivan, Cramer

The call was led by Senators Dan Sullivan and Kevin Cramer, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who introduced legislation in March to remove U.S. troops, Patriot missiles and THAAD defense systems from Saudi Arabia unless it cut output.

There were 11 Republican senators on the nearly two-hour call, including Bill Cassidy, who introduced legislation last week to remove the U.S. troops in 30 days, a month faster than the previous legislation.

They spoke with Saudi Arabia Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Deputy Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman, and Saudi Ambassador to the United States Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan.

Sullivan, of Alaska, applauded Saudi Arabia's taking part in the agreement to cut output, but said "actions speak louder than words."

"The kingdom needs to take sustainable, concrete actions to significantly cut oil production, and it needs to do so soon," said Sullivan. Saudi Arabia's action to boost production during a pandemic was "inexcusable" and "won't be forgotten," the senator added.

U.S. reduction

The United States, the world's top oil producer, is gradually cutting about 2 million bpd of output as reduced demand and low oil prices force some heavily leveraged producers into bankruptcy.

The legislation would have to pass the Senate, the House of Representatives and be signed by President Donald Trump to become law.

Still, the push by lawmakers was a sign of how Congress could boost pressure on Saudi Arabia if it does not stick to the oil cut plan. If it boosts output, language from the legislation could be included in must-pass legislation such as the annual defense policy bill.

In January, the United States had 2,500 military personnel in Saudi Arabia. In October 2019, Washington deployed about 3,000 troops there at a time of heightened tensions with Iran.

The Saudi Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.