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Saudis ignore Biden plea to increase oil production ahead of elections 

President of the United States Joe Biden on February 10, 2022 [Yasin Öztürk/Anadolu Agency]
President of the United States Joe Biden on February 10, 2022 [Yasin Öztürk/Anadolu Agency]

Saudi Arabia appears to have rejected a plea by US President Joe Biden to increase oil production in a bid to reduce rising prices and inflation. The apparent snub by Riyadh follows last week's high-profile call between Biden and King Salman, whereby the president reaffirmed the US "commitment to support" the kingdom against retaliatory attacks by Yemen's Houthi-aligned armed forces.

The decision to keep oil production low also follows a similar previous request by Biden in August, which also went unheeded.

According to a report yesterday in The Intercept, the Saudis are likely to decline an increase in production again, which could lead to high petrol prices ahead of crucial midterm elections in the US. Despite efforts to recalibrate relations with Riyadh, the move could have a negative impact on the Democrats, who could be blamed by voters for the soaring prices. Lower energy prices are seen by the Biden administration as benefiting any return to the stalled nuclear agreement with Iran.

"Saudi Arabia has historically played a vital role in ensuring global energy markets are well supplied to support strong and resilient economies," an administration spokesperson told The Intercept. "The President noted that it is especially important now, during this time of geopolitical instability and global recovery."

READ: Saudi Arabia transfers 4% of Aramco shares to sovereign wealth fund

A senior Democrat congressional staffer, speaking anonymously, told The Intercept that it seems like the Saudis "are using the oil weapon" against Democrats. "Given the enormous support the Biden administration has given the Saudis, breaking a key campaign commitment to reassess the relationship, you'd expect them to be more helpful."

There has been tension between the Saudis and the US, particularly the Democratic Party, since the fallout from the murder of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul in 2018. As a presidential candidate in 2019, Biden vowed to turn Saudi Arabia into a "pariah" state during a debate. That campaign promise may never be fulfilled, as experts are now concerned that oil prices could pass $100 a barrel, amid ongoing tension between Russia and Ukraine.

Asia & AmericasMiddle EastNewsSaudi ArabiaUS
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