US Senator Bob Menendez (Democrat of New Jersey) called on Washington to freeze cooperation with Saudi Arabia over its decision to “guarantee” the Russian war in Ukraine by reducing oil production.
Washington (AFP) – A powerful US senator called on Monday for Washington to freeze all cooperation with Saudi Arabia over its decision to “guarantee” the Russian war in Ukraine by cutting oil production.
Riyadh, Moscow and major oil producers agreed last week to cut production significantly to boost crude prices, in a move denounced by the United States as a concession to Moscow that would harm the global economy.
“There is simply no place to play on either side of this conflict — either the rest of the free world supports the effort to prevent a war criminal from violently wiping an entire country off the map, or it supports it,” Bob Menendez, who chairs the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.
“Saudi Arabia chose the latter in a shocking decision driven by economic self-interest.”
The 13-nation Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries led by Saudi Arabia and its 10 allies led by Russia agreed to cut production by 2 million barrels per day from November – raising fears that oil prices could rise.
Saudi Arabia has said OPEC’s priority is to “maintain a sustainable oil market” but its move has drawn swift rebuke from Washington, which is leading efforts to isolate energy producer Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
“The United States should immediately freeze all aspects of our cooperation with Saudi Arabia, including any arms sales and security cooperation beyond what is absolutely necessary to defend U.S. personnel and interests,” Menendez said.
As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I will not give the green light to any cooperation with Riyadh until the Kingdom reassesses its position regarding the war in Ukraine. Enough is enough.”
Menendez, an outspoken critic of Riyadh, has been at the forefront of the campaign to punish the Saudi royal family for the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, which US intelligence concluded was ordered by de facto leader Mohammed bin Salman.
He is the latest in a string of lawmakers calling for a rethink of the US-Saudi relationship, but he is able to exert far greater influence than most in his pursuit of increased scrutiny of arms sales.
When former President Donald Trump issued an emergency proclamation to bypass Congress in approving an arms deal with Riyadh in 2019, Menendez muddled the process by refusing to acknowledge the White House’s notification of the sale until he received answers to his concerns about US use. Weapons made in Yemen.
“I am horrified by the desperate and desperate Russian escalation against civilian infrastructure across Ukraine – including Kyiv,” he said.
“I pledge to use all means at my disposal to accelerate support for the people of Ukraine and starve the Russian war machine.”