US-Saudi Talks Focus on Politics, Avoid Oil

Copyright © 2023 Energy Intelligence Group All rights reserved. Unauthorized access or electronic forwarding, even for internal use, is prohibited.

Senior advisers to US President Joe Biden held talks with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Thursday that focused on ways to move toward normalizing ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, sources told Energy Intelligence.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Brett McGurk, the top White House official for Middle East policy, were among the US officials who met with Prince Mohammed and other senior Saudi officials.

Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman participated in the talks in Jeddah, but oil supply issues were not discussed, the sources said.

People close to the talks described them as "a positive step" toward better ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, but emphasized that a potential future agreement to normalize relations between the two countries is still "far off."

In a short statement Thursday, the White House said Sullivan had met with the crown prince and senior Saudi officials "to discuss bilateral and regional matters, including initiatives to advance a common vision for a more peaceful, secure, prosperous, and stable Middle East region interconnected with the world."

The statement did not mention Israel by name, although US officials later confirmed to various news organizations that the talks touched on the topic of normalizing ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The US previously mediated the Abraham Accords, under which Israel established diplomatic relations with Bahrain, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan in 2020, and it has sought to promote similar agreements between Israel and other countries.

However, major obstacles to a Saudi-Israel agreement remain, including the Palestinian issue and security guarantees.

The sources told Energy Intelligence that there was no discussion of oil-related issues in Jeddah, saying that Washington appears to have backed away from efforts to influence Saudi oil policy, even though Brent crude oil prices have recently risen above $80 per barrel again.

Last year the Biden administration sharply criticized a cut of 2 million barrels per day in oil production by the Saudi-led Opec-plus alliance, but the administration's response to subsequent cuts — including an additional voluntary cut of 1 million b/d — has been relatively muted.

Crude oil and gasoline prices are a perennially sensitive topic in US politics and remain on the Biden administration's radar ahead of the presidential election in November 2024, but the Saudis have made clear that they view oil policy as a matter of crucial national interest that is not open to external influence.

Energy Intelligence understands that the talks in Jeddah also touched on Saudi Arabia's plans to use nuclear energy for power generation in the future.

Policy and Regulation
Wanda Ad #2 (article footer)
The three hubs are being developed in parallel with storage facilities with an initial combined storage capacity of 15 million tons/yr of CO2.
Mon, Oct 2, 2023
The US increases nuclear proliferation risk by offering uranium enrichment as part of a Saudi-Israel alliance, argues Stephanie Cooke in this opinion piece.
Tue, Oct 3, 2023
The shallow-water producer is selling properties to W&T Offshore, but it says it won't be able to close the deal unless a court helps it settle issues with Chevron and others.
Mon, Oct 2, 2023