Saudi blasts release of oil reserves ‘to manipulate markets’

Saudi Arabia’s energy minister on Tuesday blasted the release of emergency oil stocks as an attempt to “manipulate markets”, the latest apparent salvo in a spat with Washington over oil production.

“People are depleting their emergency stocks, had depleted it, used it as a mechanism to manipulate markets while its profound purpose was to mitigate shortage of supply,” Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman told an investor conference in the Saudi capital.

“However, it is my profound duty to make it clear to the world that losing emergency stock may become painful in the months to come.”

Prince Abdulaziz did not single out the United States in his comments about emergency stocks, but last week US President Joe Biden announced he was putting the final 15 million barrels on the market from a record release of US strategic reserves.

That tranche was to complete a 180-million-barrel release authorised in the spring, in response to price hikes linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It also came on the heels of a decision by the OPEC+ oil cartel, which Riyadh co-leads with Moscow, to cut oil production by two million barrels a day from November.

The cartel’s decision, weeks ahead of US congressional elections, has drawn intense criticism from the White House, which has said it amounted to “aligning with Russia” in the Ukraine war.

Prince Abdulaziz pushed back against that assessment on Tuesday.

“I keep listening, are you with us or against us? Is there any room for, ‘We are for Saudi A