Saudi Arabia, Opec’s top oil producer, will only freeze its oil output if Iran and other major producers do so, according to the kingdom’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud.

He has said that Iran must take an active role in stabilising the crude market.

“If all countries including Iran, Russia, Venezuela, Opec countries and all main producers decide to freeze production, we will be among them,” he said, according to US-based news agency Bloomberg. “If there is anyone that decides to raise their production, then we will not reject any opportunity that knocks on our door.”

Iran has already said it plans to boost production and the call for action by Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince leaves the outcome of a planned meeting on 17 April between Opec and some non-Opec producers in question.

In London and New York, oil prices sank more than 4 per cent on 1 April, with West Texas Intermediate (WTI) erasing all of its gains for this year. Brent crude fell $1.66 to $38.67 a barrel and WTI dropped $1.55 to $36.79 a barrel.

The meeting of oil producers in Doha on 17 April follows a gathering in February between Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Russia and Venezuela in which the quartet tentatively agreed to cap their production at January’s level.

The deal, which helped to lift the price of Brent above $40 a barrel from a 12-year low of $27.10 a barrel in January, was contingent on other countries joining it.

Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh will attend the Doha discussions but will  not join a production freeze, claimed Bloomberg, citing a person familiar with the Islamic Republic’s policy.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said that Iran in February – its first full month free of nuclear sanctions – lifted its oil production to a four-year high of 3.22 million barrels a day (b/d).

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed said the kingdom was ready to weather the oil crisis by reforming its economy.

“I don’t believe that the decline in oil prices poses a threat to us,” he said, adding that a rise in prices, while having budgetary benefits for the kingdom, was also a “threat to the lifespan of oil”.

He suggested prices will rise over the next two years as demand continues to increase, but he made it clear that Riyadh has very little appetite for the return of Opec production management that moulded the oil industry for 30 years.

Saudi Arabia Special Reports