United Arab Emirates backs oil output freeze
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) threw its support on Thursday behind a plan by major oil producers to freeze output levels in an attempt to halt a slide in crude prices that has pushed them to their lowest point in more than a decade.
Russia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Venezuela announced their willingness to cap output at last month's levels at a surprise meeting in Qatar this week but only if other major oil producers join them. OPEC member Kuwait has since said it supports the proposal, and Iran has offered at least tentative backing.
The support from the Emirates, a close Saudi ally, does not come as a major surprise but is still significant. The seven-state federation is OPEC's third-largest oil producer.
Energy Minister Suhail Mohammed al-Mazrouei said in a statement to state news agency WAM that the Emirates supports any proposal to freeze output through consensus with OPEC and Russia, which is not part of the oil-producing bloc.
"We believe that freezing production levels by members of OPEC and Russia will have a positive impact on balancing future demand based on the current oversupply," he said.
He was also quoted as saying he believes current conditions will prompt producing countries to cap existing output, if not cut supply. The UAE, he said, "is always open for co-operation with everyone in order to serve the higher interests of the producers and the balance of the market".
A day earlier, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said after talks with counterparts from Iraq, Venezuela and Qatar that his country "supports any measure to boost oil prices", but stopped short of committing Iran to capping its own output. Iran has previously said it aims to boost production above its roughly 2.9 million barrels a day now that sanctions related to its nuclear programme have been lifted.
Meanwhile, oil prices fluctuated Thursday after a big rally over the last few days. Oil prices opened higher then slumped after the US government said fuel stockpiles grew last week, and later recovered to make small gains.
US crude added 11 cents to close at US$30.77 a barrel in New York. The price of US oil has climbed 17 per cent over the last week. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, lost 22 cents to close at US$34.28 a barrel in London. Oil prices have surged recently as the major oil-producing nations continued to talk about a deal that could limit production.