September 9, 2018 / 5:34 PM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 3-U.S. energy chief to meet Russian, Saudi counterparts ahead of Iran sanctions

(Adds details on oil prices, background)

By Timothy Gardner and Maria Kiselyova

WASHINGTON/MOSCOW, Sept 9 (Reuters) - U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry will meet counterparts from Saudi Arabia and Russia starting on Monday, sources familiar with the matter said, as the Trump administration encourages oil-producing countries to keep output up two months before it is due to renew sanctions on Iran’s crude exports.

Perry will meet Khalid al-Falih, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, and other officials from the kingdom, the world’s largest oil exporter, in Washington on Monday morning, a U.S. government source said.

The U.S. energy secretary will also meet with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak on Thursday in Moscow, the U.S. source and a diplomatic source said.

High oil prices are a political risk for President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans in Nov. 6 congressional elections. Global oil prices have risen to more than $76 a barrel in recent weeks on concerns about sanctions on Iran’s oil exports that Washington will renew on Nov. 4.

Trump withdrew the United States in May from the nuclear deal with Iran, and he is pushing consuming countries to cut their purchases of Iranian oil to zero. The administration may issue some waivers, but some countries, including India, have already reduced purchases of the oil ahead of the sanctions.

Perry will be the most senior U.S. official to visit Russia since Trump met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in July to try to improve ties that have dipped to a post-Cold War low.

Moscow and Washington are at odds over U.S. accusations of Russian meddling in U.S. politics, Syria, Ukraine and the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.

Officials from the United States and Russia, two of the world’s largest oil and natural gas producers, formerly met regularly to discuss energy issues. Those meetings stopped in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea.

Trump has said he wants to improve ties, but his administration is considering imposing new sanctions on Moscow, as is the U.S. Congress.

Novak has said the United States should not be permitted to impose such sanctions without a vote of the U.N. Security Council, of which Russia is a permanent member.

Perry and Novak, who last met in June in Washington, will likely discuss Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline project to carry Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea. Trump and former U.S. President Barack Obama have criticized the project, saying it would increase Russian influence in Europe, but Germany supports the pipeline.

Perry and Novak are also expected to discuss oil market cooperation between OPEC, of which Saudi Arabia is the largest producer, and non-OPEC countries, including Russia.

OPEC and non-OPEC officials will meet later this month to discuss proposals for sharing an oil output increase, after the groups decided in June to boost output moderately.

Perry, al-Falih and Darren Woods, the chief executive of ExxonMobil Corp, were introduced on Saturday to the crowd at a Texas A&M University football game in College Station, Texas. All three graduated from the university. (Reporting by Timothy Gardner in Washington and Maria Kiselyova in Moscow; Additional reporting by Olesya Astakhova in Moscow; Editing by Will Dunham and Peter Cooney)

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