Dubai: UAE and Saudi Arabia have ruled out removing Russia from the OPEC+ group of oil producing nations.

Speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai, Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman called Russia’s Ukraine move a ‘political’ issue, and said the OPEC+ was more concerned with maintaining the global oil supply. “There is a platform for the moral, ethical and political issues; when it comes to OPEC, we have managed to compartmentalize our political differences for the last 35 years.”

The US and UK have cut off Russian oil imports and also imposed economic sanctions on the country in the light of the ongoing conflict. Russia, which produces around 10 million barrels of oil per day annually, is responsible for a tenth of the global crude supply.

The Saudi energy official said that OPEC+ took a ‘silo’ type approach when it came to resolving such issues. “When get into the building for our meetings, we leave politics outside of the door and that culture has been with us,” said Bin Salman. “If we don’t do that, we will not have dealt with so many countries at different times.”

UAE Energy Minister Suhail Al Mazrouei has taken a similar view. “In OPEC and OPEC+, we had countries at war and they were both partners – we did not take a side and we’re not taking a side today,” said the Minister. “We have one mission, which is stabilizing the market, so we cannot be bringing politics into the organization and having that debate.

“Our aim is to calm the market (and) try to come up with volumes as much as possible,” said Al Mazrouei. “If we are asking anyone to leave, then we are raising the prices and doing something that is against what the consumers want.”

Oil prices, which have risen about 80 per cent in the last 12 months, crossed $130 a barrel mark earlier this month. Although seen as a boon to oil producing countries, the rising fuel prices is already threatening to increase the prices of food and other key raw materials. “Countries have the right to select from the resources they buy, but we cannot decide for all and say you cannot buy these barrels – that is outside the OPEC,” said Al Mazrouei.

Maintaining oil supply

The UAE Minister said the country is trying to bring in more oil into the market at a “reasonable” pace. “We need financial resources and we need to decouple politics from energy availability and energy affordability.”

“I’m worried that because we are mixing the two, we could end up in a situation where energy affordability is becoming an issue and that would definitely lead to poverty and stagnation of the world economy.”

Fitch Ratings has cut its world GDP growth forecast for 2022 by 0.7 percentage points to 3.5 per cent, with the eurozone cut by 1.5 percentage points to 3 per cent and the US by 0.2 percentage points to 3.5 per cent. “This reflects the drag from higher energy prices and a faster pace of US interest rate hikes than anticipated,” said the agency in a report.