Putin to meet with Saudi Prince just days before OPEC+ gathers

By Ilya Arkhipov and Javier Blas on 6/25/2019

MOSCOW and LONDON (Bloomberg) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman at the Group of 20 summit in Japan this week, just days before OPEC and its allies gather in Austria to discuss extending oil-output cuts.

“Intense” preparations are under way for the meeting between Putin and Prince Mohammed, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday, without elaborating on the agenda. If past experience is any guide, the talks could provide a breakthrough on OPEC+ policy before ministers convene in Vienna.

While key members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries back the extension of output curbs that expire this month, Russia -- OPEC’s most important ally -- has adopted a wait-and-see approach. Its Energy Minister Alexander Novak said Monday it’s still too early to comment on any potential decision and that he’ll “see what will be discussed” at the G-20 meeting.

G-20 leaders’ summits have long been key policy-making forums for oil and OPEC watchers. Last year, Putin and Prince Mohammed used the event in Buenos Aires to agree to extend their OPEC+ deal, days before oil ministers met and rolled over production cuts.

The G-20 in 2016 in Hangzhou, China, also proved pivotal, with Putin and the crown prince coming together to end years of animosity between the world’s top two oil exporters. Since that meeting, the two nations have cooperated on oil-output policy as de facto leaders of the OPEC+ coalition.

As further proof of the importance of G-20 talks, Saudi Arabia and Russia recently lobbied fellow OPEC+ nations to reschedule their Vienna meeting, shifting it by a few days so that oil ministers will gather just after Putin’s sitdown with the crown prince, rather than before as originally planned.

OPEC+ will meet in the Austrian capital on July 1-2, rather than on June 25-26 as initially scheduled.

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