Controlling oil prices is an opportunity for Saudi Arabia and Iran to work together and improve relations between the two countries, says Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turki al-Faisal.

“We all hope for an improvement in relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran,” said Prince Turki at a Beirut Institute press briefing in Abu Dhabi on 21 February. “Oil is one factor that brings us together with Iran. Hopefully there can be some kind of arrangement within Opec that brings us together to agree on a programme of production and distribution of oil that will benefit not only the oil producers but also the consumers.”

Prince Turki stressed the importance of Saudi Arabia’s desire for the crude market to settle on a pricing level that is fair to both producers and consumers, adding that the recent agreement with Russia and other oil producers to freeze production at January 2016 levels could be the start of this process.

“[The] kingdom has been consistently pursuing a policy to be fair to the consumer as long as it is fair to producers. In that context, the recent agreement with Russia and other countries involved will hopefully bring the price of oil to a level that is agreeable and acceptable not only to producers, but also to consumers,” he said.

Oil prices have remained at about $30 a barrel this year and most forecasts have predicted they will remain weak throughout the rest of the year.

Relations between Riyadh and Tehran were placed under intense pressure at the start of this year after a mob in the Islamic Republic stormed the Saudi embassy. The mob was protesting Riyadh’s decision to execute Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. The kingdom and other GCC states severed diplomatic relations in protest.

On the broader issue of Iran, Prince Turki said Tehran must make the next move if relations are to thaw. “The ball is in the Iranian court,” he said. “The kingdom has expressed publicly that Iran’s interference in the affairs of Arab states is a situation that is unacceptable. The public statements made by Iranian officials not only declare their interference in affairs of their neighbours, but they somehow seem to be proud of that.”