Gulf oil ministers to meet today amid price slide

Gulf oil ministers are due to meet today in Qatar for an annual meeting, in the first gathering by the heavyweight crude producers since the latest slide in oil prices.

But while the price drop is not on the agenda for the scheduled meeting of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman, it will be a chance for oil ministers to air views on the market.

Comments by Saudi Arabia Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi, in particular, will be closely scrutinized. The oil minister of the world’s top crude exporter has made no public comment on prices since June 18, when the oil price was above $63 and he said he was optimistic about the market in coming months.

Oil prices have more than halved since peaks hit in summer last year due to abundant supplies and a policy change by producer group OPEC to defend market share and discourage competing supply from rival producers, rather than cut its own output. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies led the policy shift.

Last month, prices lurched to a more than six-year low near $42 a barrel due to concern about the world’s largest energy consumer China’s economy and the persistent oil glut. Brent crude was trading around $49 a barrel on Monday.

The latest fall has intensified calls by some members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for an emergency meeting. Top Gulf OPEC producers’ policymakers have remained publicly silent since it met last in June.

“The Doha meeting is central given what the international petroleum industry is going through from volatility and to push towards stability,” Kuwait’s oil ministry tweeted in a statement on Monday.

The ministry’s statement did not say crude prices would be discussed during the ministerial meeting on Sept. 10, where topics such as unifying domestic gasoline prices, climate change and cooperation in renewable energy sector are on the official agenda.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Saturday he had suggested to the Emir of Qatar a summit of heads of state of OPEC countries to defend oil prices.

Last year, the GCC oil ministers held their meeting in Kuwait. Oil prices were trading then at slightly below $100 a barrel, a level which had long been favored by OPEC members before last year’s policy shift.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE and Qatar are the main Gulf OPEC members. Oman and Bahrain are both non-OPEC members.

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