Saudi Arabia’s New 100% Shisha Tax Sparks Fury

A hooka (shisha) is pictured at a restaurant in Saudi Arabia’s western city of Jeddah on October 20, 2019. A decision to impose 100 percent tax on bills of restaurants that serve hookah, or shisha, has sparked social media fury in Saudi Arabia, which seeks to boost its economy. Some restaurants have stopped offering the popular pastime, while others lowered their prices to accomodate their customers. PHOTO: AFP

A decision to impose a 100 percent tax on bills at restaurants that serve shisha has ignited criticism on social media in Saudi Arabia, where the water pipes are a popular pastime.

The furore has also been fuelled by confusion over how the tax is applied.

In the meantime, some restaurants have stopped offering shisha, while others have lowered their prices to appease customers.

The government’s official gazette said earlier this month that the tax will apply to all tobacco products.

However the ruling from the ministry of rural and municipal affairs said it will apply “to the total invoice of the business serving tobacco products”.

A number of restaurants and cafes contacted by AFP said they believed that the tax applies to all table orders in any establishment that serves tobacco products, whether or not the order included shisha.

The decision sparked an avalanche of criticism on social media networks where the Arabic hashtag “tax on hookah restaurants” is trending in the kingdom.

Many people posted photos of their restaurant bills, with totals of more than double the initial amount when taking into account the new 100 percent tax and a still-unpopular five percent value added tax which went into effect last year.

“Tobacco tax — controversy and confusion,” read a headline in the Al-Madina newspaper on Monday.

In the face of persistent budget deficits, the world’s top crude oil exporter has resorted to measures like cutting subsidies on fuel and power and imposing new taxes including on cigarettes and soft drinks.

There were also suggestions that the new shisha tax could be a measure to protect public health.

“This is an indirect way to prohibit shisha without actually prohibiting it,” tweeted Electronic Lawyer, a popular commentator who has more than 80,000 followers.

Other Twitter users said the new decision goes against the country’s Vision 2030 ambitions to change its ultra-conservative image and revamp the economy.

Encouraging investment and kickstarting tourism are part of a reform programme envisaged by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to wean the kingdom off its reliance on oil.

Saudi columnist Bassam Fatiny criticised the size of the tax as ill-considered.

“Let us assume that tax on tobacco has environmental and health benefits, is it logical that it be 100 percent!” he said on Twitter. “The ministry must have misunderstood Vision (2030).”

AFP

35 Killed In Saudi Arabia Bus Crash

Medina, Qatif, Saudi Arabia

 

Thirty-five foreigners were killed and four others injured when a bus collided with another heavy vehicle near the Islamic holy city of Medina, Saudi state media said on Thursday.

The accident on Wednesday evening involved the collision of “a private chartered bus… with a heavy vehicle” near the western city, a spokesman for Medina police said, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

Those involved were Arab and Asian pilgrims travelling from Medina to Mecca, according to local media, which carried pictures of the bus engulfed in flames and with its windows blown out.

The injured have been transferred to Al-Hamna Hospital, SPA added. Authorities have launched an investigation.

The Okaz newspaper said that the victims were expatriates who lived in the kingdom and who were performing the umrah, the lesser pilgrimage to the Muslim holy places which can be undertaken year round.

This year, some 2.5 million faithful travelled to Saudi Arabia from across the world in August to take part in the annual hajj pilgrimage — one of the five pillars of Islam.

The hajj and the umrah centre on the western city of Mecca and its surrounding hills and valleys, but the itinerary also often takes in the other holy city of Medina.

Last year, a high-speed train line was opened linking Mecca and Medina in just two and a half hours, halving the previous travel time.

Prince Faisal bin Salman, the governor of Medina region, expressed his condolences to the families of the victims, SPA said.

Pakistan said four people survived the bus crash, including one of its nationals, while several other Pakistani citizens were killed.

“It has been reported that 35 passengers out of total 39 lost their lives,” the foreign ministry in Islamabad said in a statement.

“Initial reports indicate that the deceased also include a certain number of Pakistani nationals. Of the four (4) survivors, there is one Pakistani named Mr. Akbar, who is seriously injured,” it added.

 Transport Challenge 

The nationalities of the other victims was not immediately known but Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also sent his condolences.

“Anguished by the news of a bus crash near Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. Praying for a quick recovery of the injured,” he tweeted.

Transporting worshippers around the holy sites, particularly during the hajj, is a huge challenge for Saudi Arabia.

During the pilgrimage, the roads can be chaotic with thousands of buses creating interminable traffic jams.

Four British pilgrims were killed and 12 others injured in April last year when their bus collided with a fuel tanker while they were on the way to Mecca.

And in January 2017, six Britons, including a two-month-old baby, were killed in a minibus on their way to Medina after making a pilgrimage to Mecca.

In September 2015, a stampede killed up to 2,300 worshippers — including hundreds of Iranians — in the worst disaster ever to strike the hajj.

Earlier that month, 100 people were killed when a construction crane toppled into a courtyard of Mecca’s Grand Mosque.

As part of efforts to diversify its oil-dependent economy, the ultra-conservative kingdom wants to foster a year-round religious tourism sector that attracts millions of pilgrims.

Up until last month, it only issued visas to Muslim pilgrims, foreign workers and recently to spectators at sporting or cultural events, but tourists are now allowed to visit as part of the drive to wean the biggest Arab economy off its dependence on oil.

Saudi Condemns Turkey’s ‘Aggression’ In Syria

File photo: King Salman of Saudi Arabia

 

Saudi Arabia condemned Turkey’s offensive Wednesday against Kurdish areas in northeast Syria saying it would undermine the region’s security and the battle against jihadists.

The Turkish army’s “aggression” would have “negative repercussions on the security and stability of the region”, the foreign ministry said on Twitter.

It would also “undermine international efforts to fight the Islamic State terrorist group”.

AFP

Saudi Rules Women Can Join Armed Forces

 

Saudi Arabia announced Wednesday it will allow women in the ultra-conservative kingdom to serve in the armed forces as it embarks on a broad programme of economic and social reforms.

The move is the latest in a series of measures aimed at increasing the rights of women in the kingdom, even as rights groups accuse Riyadh of cracking down on women activists.

“Another step to empowerment,” the foreign ministry wrote on Twitter, adding that women would be able to serve as private first class, corporal or sergeant.

Last year, Saudi Arabia authorised women to join its security forces.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, has approved a handful of reforms aimed at widening women’s rights, including allowing them to drive and to travel abroad without consent from a male “guardian”.

But he has at the same time overseen the arrest of several prominent women’s rights campaigners, including activist Loujain al-Hathloul.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude exporter, is pushing to improve its image and attract tourists as part of a plan to diversify its economy away from oil.

Khashoggi Murder: UN Expert Blasts Saudi Prince Over Defence

Turkey Widens Khashoggi Search, Quizzes Consulate Staff
In this file photo taken on December 15, 2014, general manager of Alarab TV, Jamal Khashoggi, looks on during a press conference in the Bahraini capital Manama. MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH / AFPj

 

A UN rights expert on Monday criticised Saudi Arabia’s crown prince for trying to create “distance” between himself and journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s execution, even as he appeared to acknowledge the Saudi state was responsible.

Agnes Callamard, a United Nations special rapporteur who conducted an investigation into Khashoggi’s murder, was reacting to an interview broadcast by US media on Sunday with Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Speaking to CBS’s 60 Minutes, Prince Mohammed denied ordering or having advanced warning of Khashoggi’s killing on October 2 last year at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, but said he “took full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia”.

Callamard, whose independent probe found “credible evidence” linking the crown prince to the murder and attempted cover up, dismissed that defence as “problematic”.

“He is only taking corporate responsibility for the crime, which goes without saying,” Callamard told AFP, days ahead of the first anniversary since Khashoggi’s death.

She said the interview appeared to mark a concession by Prince Mohammed that “the killing of Mr. Khashoggi was a state killing,” and therefore a rejection of Riyadh’s previous explanation that responsibility for the brutal murder lay with rogue agents.

But Callamard condemned the prince, known by his initials MBS, for taking “no personal responsibility for the crime”.

“He is creating huge distance between himself and the crime,” by arguing that he cannot be liable for the conduct of all Saudi government employees.

Callamard told AFP that “for the last 12 months, the Saudi state, their various representatives and (MBS) included have been lying to the international community regarding the nature of the crime. So now we are supposed to take his word that, yes, he has a corporate responsibility but he has no personal responsibility?”

“Not good enough,” she said.

The CIA has also reportedly said the killing was likely ordered by Prince Mohammed.

But Saudi prosecutors have absolved the prince and said two dozen people implicated in the murder are in custody, with death penalties sought against five men.

 Justice not ‘easy’ 

Callamard has previously blamed UN “paralysis” for the failure to punish those who murdered Khashoggi — a US resident, Washington Post contributor and critic of the Saudi royal family.

She has called on Secretary General Antonio Guterres to independently launch a UN criminal probe.

The UN chief’s office has said that is impossible without a member state request.

“I have not argued that this will be easy for (Guterres) procedurally or politically to do. What I am arguing is that if he wanted, and if he received sufficient formal or informal backing, he could find the legal backing to move forward,” Callamard said.

AFP

Oil Prices Drop As Saudi Eyes Non-Military Solution To Iran Crisis

Oil prices fell more than one percent on Monday after Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader said war with Iran would destroy the world economy and hinted instead at a non-military solution.

Washington, Riyadh, Berlin, London and Paris blame Iran for attacks that damaged the Saudi oil sector on September 14 and forced the world’s largest crude exporter to sharply reduce production.

Elsewhere Monday, stock markets diverged as traders tracked the latest twists and turns regarding the US-China trade war. The dollar was mixed against main rivals.

“In terms of geopolitical concerns, common sense is prevailing for now in Saudi Arabia,” noted analyst Naeem Aslam at traders ThinkMarkets, in reference to the comments by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince in an interview with CBS show “60 minutes” broadcast over the weekend.

Mohammed bin Salman said war would be catastrophic for global growth.

‘Unimaginably high’

“Oil supplies will be disrupted and oil prices will jump to unimaginably high numbers that we haven’t seen in our lifetimes,” the prince said.

“The region represents about 30 percent of the world’s energy supplies, about 20 percent of global trade passages, about four percent of the world GDP. Imagine all of these three things stop,” he said.

“This means a total collapse of the global economy, and not just Saudi Arabia or the Middle East countries.”

Iran’s oil minister meanwhile on Sunday ordered his country’s energy sector to be on high alert to the threat of “physical and cyber” attacks.

Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said “it is necessary for all companies and installations of the oil industry to be on full alert against physical and cyber threats”, in a statement published on the oil ministry’s Shana website.

Tehran has denied any link to the Saudi strikes, which were claimed by Huthi rebels in Yemen. Iran supports the rebels against a Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting the Huthis since 2015.

“Oil has been amazing everyone over the last couple of weeks, having surged on the back of the attack on the Saudi oil facilities before reversing the entirety of these gains, despite the country temporarily losing half its output,” Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda trading group, said Monday.

“Traders are clearly not particularly concerned about risk premiums in oil… Instead, the focus again seems to be shifting back to the demand dynamics and the risk of further downgrades as the global economic slowdown takes hold,” he added.

US-China trade war

Elsewhere Monday, investors digested reports in US media that President Donald Trump is mulling severe new restrictions on investment in China.

Shanghai and Tokyo stock markets slumped the day before a week-long patriotic holiday begins in China, despite assurances from the US Treasury that there were no plans to stop Chinese companies from listing on US exchanges.

On Tuesday the Asian giant celebrates 70 years since the founding of communist China, with markets closed from October 1 to 7, while planned pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong threaten to disrupt festivities.

Shanghai closed down 0.9 percent as some investors took profits, with uncertainty fuelled by fears of an escalation in the US-China trade war that has raged for more than a year.

“The Sino-US trade negotiations have been full of twists and turns,” said Zhang Gang, an analyst with Central China Securities.

“You don’t know what remarks Trump would make in the next seven days, or what variables there will be from the US side. So (investors) have set themselves in a low-key, waiting position.”

Key figures around 1100 GMT

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 1.3 percent at $61.12 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.0 percent at $55.34 per barrel

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.3 percent at 7,406.37 points

Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 0.1 percent at 12,368.83

Paris – CAC 40: FLAT at 5,639.56

EURO STOXX 50: FLAT at 3,546.40

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.5 percent at 26,092.27 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.9 percent at 2,905.19 (close)

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.6 percent at 21,755.84 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,433.79

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.3 percent at 26,820.25 (Friday’s close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0920 from $1.0941 at 2030 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2302 from $1.2293

Euro/pound: DOWN at 88.80 pence from 89.01 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 107.93 yen from 107.95

AFP

US Announces Deployment Of 200 Troops, Missiles To Saudi Arabia

 

The United States announced Thursday the deployment of 200 troops as well as Patriot missiles to Saudi Arabia to help the country’s defense in the wake of last month’s attacks on oil installations blamed on Iran.

The Defense Department said the deployment would involve one battery of the surface-to-air missiles, along with four Sentinel radars used for air and missile defense systems.

In addition, two more Patriot batteries and one THAAD ballistic missile interception system are being readied in case a decision is made to also supply them to the Saudis, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said.

“This deployment will augment the kingdom’s air and missile defense of critical military and civilian infrastructure,” he said.

It comes “in light of recent attacks on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he said.

“It is important to note these steps are a demonstration of our commitment to regional partners, and the security and stability in the Middle East,” he added.

“Other countries have called out Iranian misadventures in the region, and we look for them to contribute assets in an international effort to reinforce Saudi Arabia’s defense.”

The US has pointed to Iran being behind the combination drone and cruise missile attacks on September 14 which heavily damaged two Saudi oil installations, forcing the key oil supplier to slash output.

Iran has denied responsibility, and President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday challenged the US and others to provide evidence to back up their accusations

AFP

Saudi Oil Attacks An Iranian ‘Act Of War’, Says Pompeo

 

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced strikes on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure as an “act of war” on Wednesday, as Riyadh unveiled new evidence it said showed the assault was “unquestionably” sponsored by arch-foe Iran.

The comments raise the risk of a wider conflict in the tinderbox Gulf region after the weekend strikes on the heart of the kingdom’s oil industry knocked out half its production, rattling energy markets.

“This was an Iranian attack,” Pompeo told reporters on his plane before landing in the western city of Jeddah, calling it “an act of war”.

“This is an attack of a scale we’ve just not seen before.”

His comment came as Saudi Arabia displayed what it said were fragments of 25 drones and cruise missiles fired at two facilities in the country’s east, engulfing them in flames.

“The attack was launched from the north and unquestionably sponsored by Iran,” defence ministry spokesman Turki al-Maliki said.

READ ALSO: Two Killed As Spanish Military Plane Crashes

Tehran-linked Huthi rebels in the kingdom’s southern neighbour Yemen have claimed responsibility, but both Washington and Riyadh have ruled that out.

“We are working to know the exact launch point,” Maliki said.

But he would not be drawn on whether Saudi officials believed Iran would ultimately be found to be the culprit.

Pompeo said there was no evidence for media reports the attacks had been launched from Iraq — caught between its two main sponsors, Tehran and Washington.

Diplomats at the United Nations said experts were expected in the kingdom to lead an international inquiry.

Pompeo met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah to discuss a response to the strike, which took out six percent of global supplies.

Meanwhile, the Huthis threatened to hit “dozens of targets” in the United Arab Emirates, part of a Saudi-led coalition against the rebels.

‘We don’t want war’

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP the administration has concluded the attack involved cruise missiles from Iran, and said evidence would be presented at the UN General Assembly next week.

Vice President Mike Pence reiterated President Donald Trump’s comments that “we don’t want war with anybody, but the United States is prepared.”

Trump, who has already re-imposed sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy, promised on Wednesday to “substantially increase” the measures, winning quick praise from Riyadh.

He said details would be given within 48 hours.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, himself under US sanctions since July 31, described the measures as “illegal” and “inhuman”.

Trump’s move was an “admission that (the) US is DELIBERATELY targeting ordinary citizens,” he said on Twitter.

The apparent hardening of the US position came as Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ruled out negotiations with Washington “at any level”.

That appeared to nix hopes for a dramatic meeting between Trump and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations next week.

Late Wednesday, the United States still had not issued Rouhani and his delegation with visas to attend the meeting in New York, Iranian state media said.

Maliki said Saturday’s attack did not originate from Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is locked in a prolonged conflict with the Huthis, “despite Iran’s efforts to make it appear so”.

He said the strike was beyond the capabilities of the militia — who have however mounted dozens of smaller attacks on Saudi territory.

“The precision impact of the cruise missile” indicated advanced capabilities beyond those of the Huthis, he added.

Oil prices rocked

Observers say the Saudi experience in Yemen, where despite their vast firepower they have failed to subdue the ragtag but highly motivated militia, has made Riyadh circumspect about wading into another conflict.

“I certainly hope we’re not” going to have a war, Riyadh’s ambassador to London Prince Khalid bin Bandar told the BBC.

“We are trying not to react too quickly because the last thing we need is more conflict in the region.”

Iran has backed Huthi claims of being behind the attack, and Rouhani said Wednesday it was a rebel “warning” about a possible wider war in response to the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.

State media said Tehran had written to Washington through the Swiss embassy on Monday, denying any role in attacks on Saudi installations and warning it would respond to any action against it.

Trump’s administration is considering responses including a cyber attack or a physical strike on Iranian oil infrastructure or its Revolutionary Guards, NBC News reported, citing unnamed US officials.

Oil prices have see-sawed since the attacks, with record gains Monday followed by a tumble Tuesday as the Saudi assurances on supplies soothed the markets.

Germany Extends Saudi Arms Exports Ban

German Chancellor Angela Merkel/ AFP

 

Germany has extended a weapons export embargo against Saudi Arabia for six months until the end of March 2020, a government spokesman said Wednesday.

Besides a halt in deliveries during the period, no new weapons contracts would be approved, the spokesman added about the embargo, which was imposed last October over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

AFP

Saudi To Announce Oil Attacks Findings As US Weighs Retaliation

A picture taken on September 15, 2019 shows an Aramco oil facility near al-Khurj area, just south of the Saudi capital Riyadh. Saudi Arabia raced today to restart operations at oil plants hit by drone attacks which slashed its production by half, as Iran dismissed US claims it was behind the assault.

Saudi Arabia said it will unveil the results later Wednesday of its probe into attacks on key oil installations, as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo heads to the kingdom to discuss possible retaliation.

Riyadh, which is bogged down in a five-year war against Tehran-aligned rebels in neighbouring Yemen, has said that the weapons used were Iranian-made but has not directly blamed its arch-rival.

However, the Saudi defence ministry said its spokesman would present evidence from the site of the weekend attacks that halved Saudi oil production, sending global energy markets into a tailspin.

He “will announce the final results of the investigation and present material evidence and Iranian weapons proving the Iranian regime’s involvement in the terrorist attack,” the ministry said.

Late Tuesday, Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said international investigators, including from the UN, were joining the probe, having announced that output would return to normal by the end of the month.

The kingdom wants “proof based on professionalism and internationally recognised standards,” he said.

The Saudis will present the evidence ahead of Pompeo’s arrival.

The US chief diplomat is set to meet with de facto Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss how to respond to the strikes, which the US says originated in Iran.

“As the president said, we don’t want war with anybody, but the United States is prepared,” Vice President Mike Pence said in a speech in Washington on Tuesday.

“We’re locked and loaded and we’re ready to defend our interests and allies in the region, make no mistake about it,” he said, echoing President Donald Trump’s words on Sunday.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the Trump administration has concluded that last weekend’s attack involved cruise missiles from Iran and that evidence would be presented at the UN General Assembly next week.

Prefer not to meet

The apparent hardening of the US position came as Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ruled out negotiations with Washington “at any level”.

This appeared to nix remaining hopes for a dramatic meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations next week.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One over California, Trump said he too had cooled on what had always seemed to be a diplomatic longshot.

“I never rule anything out, but I prefer not meeting him,” Trump said.

Yemen’s Huthi rebels claimed responsibility for Saturday’s oil installation attacks, which took out six percent of global supplies.

But a senior US administration official cast doubt on that claim, saying that while the Huthis said they used 10 drones, one Saudi oil facility was hit “at least 17 times,” and another twice by “precision-guided munitions.”

Additionally, neither the type of drone “nor the cruise missiles employed in the attack can reach the facilities from Yemen. It’s not possible,” the official said.

The Huthis are at war with Saudi-backed forces in Yemen, turning the impoverished nation into a proxy battlefield for Tehran and Riyadh.

Observers say the torrid experience in Yemen, where despite their vast firepower, the Saudis have failed to subdue the ragtag but highly motivated militia, has made Riyadh circumspect about wading into another conflict.

“I certainly hope we’re not (going to have another war),” Riyadh’s ambassador to London Prince Khalid Bin Bandar told the BBC in an interview.

“Almost certainly it’s Iranian-backed, but we are trying not to react too quickly because the last thing we need is more conflict in the region,” he said.

Iran has stuck with its account that the Huthi rebels are responsible, with Rouhani saying Wednesday that they carried out the strike as a “warning” about a possible wider war in response to the Saudi intervention in Yemen.

Support for war?

The increasingly complex conflict dovetails with the Trump administration’s attempt to curb Iranian power through a “maximum pressure” campaign of crippling economic sanctions.

Trump began that campaign after unilaterally pulling out of a 2015 international deal meant to reward Iran for allowing restrictions on its nuclear industry.

The new stage of the long-running US-Iranian standoff has raised speculation over whether it will lead to conflict.

Trump called off a retaliatory missile attack on Iran in June after the Iranians shot down a spy drone.

He said he did not want to kill what generals told him could be up to 150 people.

Trump’s administration is considering responses to the latest attack, including a cyber attack or a physical strike on Iranian oil infrastructure or its Revolutionary Guards, NBC News reported, citing unnamed US officials.

Oil prices have see-sawed since the attacks, with record gains Monday followed by a tumble Tuesday as the Saudi assurances on supply soothed the markets.

AFP

UK, Germany Urge ‘Collective Response’ To Saudi Attacks

A picture taken on September 15, 2019 shows an Aramco oil facility near al-Khurj area, just south of the Saudi capital Riyadh. Saudi Arabia raced today to restart operations at oil plants hit by drone attacks which slashed its production by half, as Iran dismissed US claims it was behind the assault.

 

Britain and Germany on Tuesday urged the international community to forge a “collective response” to the drone attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil installations, which US officials have blamed on Iran.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the attacks during a telephone conversation, agreeing on “the need to work together, alongside international partners, to agree a collective response,” according to Downing Street.

The weekend strikes on Abqaiq — the world’s largest processing plant — and the Khurais oilfield have knocked out 5.7 million barrels per day (bpd), or six percent of global production, sending prices soaring.

Washington has blamed Tehran, and President Donald Trump has said that the United States is ready to help Saudi Arabia, but will wait for a “definitive” determination on who was responsible.

Johnson and Merkel stressed the “importance of avoiding the further escalation of tensions in the region”.

The weekend attacks have spiked tensions and prompted concerns about an escalation. Conflict in the Gulf region could put a large portion of global energy supplies at risk.

AFP

Half Of Lost Saudi Oil To Remain ‘Offline’ For A Month – Report

A picture taken on September 15, 2019, shows an Aramco oil facility near al-Khurj area, just south of the Saudi capital Riyadh. PHOTO: FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP

Around three million barrels per day of Saudi oil will remain offline for a month, about half the production halted by the weekend’s devastating attacks on key crude facilities, S&P Platts said Tuesday.

The report came as oil prices dipped slightly following record gains Monday as uncertainty prevailed on global markets over when the OPEC kingpin will be able to restore lost production.

Strikes on Abqaiq — the world’s largest processing plant — and the Khurais oilfield that the US has blamed on Iran have knocked out 5.7 million barrels per day (bpd), or six percent of global production.

“At this point, it looks likely that around 3.0 million bpd of Saudi Arabian crude supply will be offline for at least a month,” S&P Global Platts said in a report.

Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman is scheduled late Tuesday to hold his first press conference since the attacks, with the expectation that he will give an update on efforts to restore lost production.

Riyadh pumps some 9.9 million bpd of which around 7.0 million bpd are exported, mostly to Asian markets.

“Saudi Arabia will likely say that they can fully supply their customers, although as time goes on this may be challenging. Any indication of delays or supply tightness will lead to further price increases in the weeks/months ahead,” S&P said.

The threat of a prolonged supply outage from Saudi Arabia highlights the lack of spare production capacity in the market, estimated at 2.3 million bpd, most of it held by Riyadh, the energy news provider said.

Reports said Monday the kingdom was likely to restore up to 40 percent of the lost production immediately, but experts had conflicting views on how long it will take to bring production back to pre-strike levels.

The crisis revived fears of a conflict in the tinderbox Gulf region and raised questions about the security of crude fields in the world’s top exporter as well as for other producers.

London-based Capital Economics said global crude stocks, estimated at around 6.1 billion barrels, should be able to compensate for the lost output.

It said that if Saudi Arabia manages to restore full production by next week, oil prices would quickly come down to around $60 a barrel.

But if it takes months and tensions persist, Brent crude prices could hit $85 a barrel, it said.

Brent was trading above $68 per barrel on Tuesday, easing slightly after surging by 20 percent at its peak on Monday — the biggest gain since the 1991 Gulf War.

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Huthi rebels claimed responsibility for the weekend attacks but the United States put the blame on Tehran.

AFP