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Saudi minister confident of ‘good relationship’ with Biden

Published on November 18, 2020

Saudi Arabia’s oil minister on Wednesday struck a conciliatory tone toward US President-elect Joe Biden, saying energy cooperation could be a launch pad for a “good relationship”.

OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia, a close ally of President Donald Trump, has appeared wary of the incoming US administration.

Biden had pledged to make the kingdom a “pariah” over its human rights failings, a threat Saudi observers have rejected as bluster.

“We have a bilateral programme, we have a joint aspiration of reducing emissions in the power sector,” Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman told reporters in Riyadh.

“If we can help each other bilaterally… it will be a good launching pad for a good relationship with the yet-to-come Biden administration.”

Prince Abdulaziz insisted Riyadh’s relations with Washington, based on the common goal of maintaining stability in oil markets, has remained strong for decades despite various “storms”.

US “administrations came and [went] but the very pillars of this relationship still prevail,” he said ahead of the Saudi-hosted G20 summit this weekend.

“So I have no qualms in my mind that we will, as we have in the past with all the administrations, have a working relationship and we will have a joint energy programme.”

Saudi Arabia has largely escaped US censure under Trump, who along with his son-in-law Jared Kushner has enjoyed a personal rapport with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler.

Trump’s defeat leaves Prince Mohammed vulnerable to renewed scrutiny from the kingdom’s closest Western ally.

That in turn could leave the crown prince isolated amid economic challenges that imperil his reform agenda, a grinding war in neighbouring Yemen and pockets of domestic opposition to his rule.

But even under Trump, Saudi Arabia’s relations with Washington frayed in March when the kingdom launched an oil price war with Russia, sending energy markets into a tailspin as it ramped up output to record levels.

American lawmakers pinned the blame on Saudi Arabia as collapsing oil prices threatened to push US producers into bankruptcy.