By AYA BATRAWY, Associated Press
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met on Wednesday with the de facto leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in a bid to mitigate soaring gasoline prices, as the he West is grappling with the economic headwinds of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Johnson was seeking greater investment in the UK’s renewable energy transition and ways to get more oil to reduce Britain’s dependence on Russian energy supplies.
His visit is also aimed at pressuring these two major OPEC producers to pump more oil, which would have an immediate impact on Brent crude oil prices which nearly hit $140 a barrel in trade last year. last week. Prices have fallen to around $100 in recent days, largely due to the new pandemic shutdowns in China.
Johnson met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the two agreed to work together to maintain energy stability and the transition to renewable fuels, Johnson’s office said.
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Johnson told reporters after the meeting that the two men had a “productive conversation” and agreed on the importance of tackling oil price inflation, but he did not say whether Saudi Arabia was responsive to increased oil production.
“I think there was an understanding of the need to ensure stability in global oil and gas markets and the need to avoid damaging price spikes,” he said.
Earlier on Wednesday, Johnson met with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed for similar energy supply talks amid the “chaos unleashed” by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He stressed “the importance of working together to improve the stability of the global energy market” and ways to strengthen energy ties, Downing Street said.
Johnson told reporters in Abu Dhabi that Russian President Vladmir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine was “causing global uncertainty and a spike in the price of oil.”
Because of Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and gas, Putin was “able to blackmail the West into ransoming Western economies”, he said, before declaring: “We need independence “.
Pushing for an immediate release of more oil is a tall order to ask Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, which are benefiting greatly from high energy prices that are boosting their incomes and purchasing power.
Ties between Western governments and Prince Mohammed also remain tarnished by the murder of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi. The prince has yet to have a direct call with US President Joe Biden, who is trying to revive the Iran nuclear deal to the frustration of some Gulf states and Israel.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have the capacity to pump more oil, but so far have been unwilling to change course from a deal with Russia. The COVID-19 pandemic has dented demand for oil, with Brent Crude prices averaging around $42 a barrel in 2020 before surging to $70 last year following a major deal. oil producers to drastically reduce production.
The agreement, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, calls for a gradual increase in production levels each month as economies recover, but it does not take into account the impact of the war in Ukraine, launched by Russia three weeks ago.
Last week, the UAE’s energy minister said the country was “committed to the OPEC+ deal and its monthly production adjustment mechanism.” His statement followed a contradictory comment from the UAE’s ambassador to Washington, who appeared to suggest the UAE was in favor of releasing more oil to the market.
Western leaders have signaled that today’s wartime energy security requires allied nations to pump more.
The Biden administration dispatched two officials last month to Riyadh to discuss a range of issues, chief among them global energy supplies. In a call with Biden ahead of the visit, King Salman stressed “the importance of keeping the deal” that is in place between OPEC producers and Russia, according to a Saudi reading of the call .
Many British lawmakers, including those from Johnson’s own Conservative Party, have questioned the decision to turn to Saudi Arabia, citing its recent mass execution of 81 people on Saturday. The UN human rights chief said just over half were Saudi Shiites who took part in anti-government protests a decade ago calling for more rights. Some were executed after trials that failed to respect due process guarantees, said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
Johnson told reporters he had raised human rights issues with Prince Mohammed and defended himself against criticism that he was going from dictator to dictator looking for sources of fuel. He said the situation was improving in Saudi Arabia and it was important to engage with the country.
“Things are changing in Saudi Arabia. We want to see them continue to change and that is why we see value in engaging with Saudi Arabia and why we see value in partnership,” he said.
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