Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro held talks in OPEC’s leading oil producer Saudi Arabia on Sunday, officials said, before he headed to Algeria for further dialogue about low world crude prices.
“The visit aims to strengthen ties and friendship,” a Venezuelan official told AFP in brief remarks, adding that it was “part of the tour to OPEC members.”
Maduro arrived in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Saturday from Iran, a fellow member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz and Maduro discussed “developments in the international arena” and ways of enhancing ties between the two countries, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
It gave no details.
Salman is the heir to the throne held by King Abdullah, who was admitted to hospital on December 31.
The royal court later announced that Abdullah had pneumonia, but SPA said on Sunday that Salman had been “reassured” about the king’s health.
Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest crude exporter and the biggest producer in the 12-member OPEC cartel,
While Saudi Arabia says it is financially strong enough to withstand the drop in world oil prices, which fell about 50 percent last year, the budgets of Venezuela and Iran are under strain.
Venezuela has said it is willing to cut production to support prices but OPEC decided in November to maintain an output ceiling of 30 million barrels per day.
The decision intensified the price slide that began in the middle of the year, blamed on softer growth in demand and a stronger United States dollar as well as oversupply.
– Call for cooperation –
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, his oil minister, and other top officials have criticised Saudi Arabia for not backing steps to bolster prices.
During his meeting with Maduro on Saturday, Rouhani again appeared to single out Riyadh, in comments carried on the Iranian government’s website.
“Without doubt, cooperation of countries that are on the same line in OPEC can neutralise the plans of some powers who are against OPEC, stabilising a reasonable price for oil in 2015,” Rouhani said.
According to the official remarks, Maduro echoed Rouhani, “calling for the cooperation of oil exporting countries to bring back stability.”
Saudi Arabia traditionally acted to balance demand and supply in the global oil market because it is the only country with substantial spare production capacity.
But Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi has been quoted as saying it is unfair to expect the cartel to reduce output if non-members, who account for most of the world’s crude production, do not.
The United States was the world’s biggest oil producer in the third quarter of last year, ahead of Saudi Arabia, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
Russia is also a key producer which does not belong to OPEC.
In such an environment, “OPEC as we used to know it is finished, for the time being,” said Beshr Bakheet, a Saudi investment fund manager.
Maduro left Riyadh later Sunday for Algeria, another member of OPEC.
During his two-day state visit beginning Monday he is to meet his Algerian counterpart Abdelaziz Bouteflika, said a presidential statement carried by Algeria’s APS press agency.
They would hold talks about “the current crisis in the price of oil, and on the ways and means of turning it around, in the framework of an effort broadened to non-OPEC producers,” it said.