By Ovunc Kutlu
The U.S. President Donald Trump's meddling in affairs of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is unwelcome within the cartel, the Iranian Minister of Petroleum told reporters on Thursday in Vienna, according to Iran's Shana agency.
"This is the first time for the president of the United States to instruct OPEC how to do [things]; and this is new and... I think this is not a good reaction inside OPEC," Shana reported Bijan Zangeneh as saying.
"They should know that OPEC is not part of the U.S. Department of energy. OPEC is still an independent organization and is working to maximize the benefits of its members," he said.
"We want to preserve OPEC, because this is the only organization where the third world has a little effect in the world economy," he added.
Before the 175th meeting of the OPEC conference kicked off on Thursday in Vienna, Trump tried to interfere into the cartel's affairs with a number of statements on social media.
"Hopefully, Saudi Arabia and OPEC will not be cutting oil production. Oil prices should be much lower based on supply!" he wrote on Twitter on Nov. 12.
On Nov. 7, Trump, who wants low oil prices for American consumers, said in a press conference that crude prices declined significantly in the past month, and added, "That's because of me. Because you have a monopoly called OPEC, and I don't like that monopoly."
The Trump administration has reimposed sanctions on Iran on Nov. 5, but the supply void from Iran's crude exports could push prices higher. To avoid this, Washington decided to provide waivers for eight countries that import Iranian crude.
During the meeting on Thursday, Tehran asked fellow OPEC members that the country be exempt from any deal that involves oil cuts due to U.S. sanctions.
"It will be unnatural for Iran not to be exempted from any OPEC decision ... because it is a special situation that Iran faces," Zangeneh said.
The minister also met with his Qatari counterpart, Energy Minister Saad al-Kaabi about Qatar's decision to quit OPEC on Jan. 1.
"Iran is not happy with the departure of Qatar from OPEC and is unaware of the reason behind this decision," he said.
Qatar, the liquefied natural gas (LNG) champion of the world for 12 consecutive years, said Monday it wants to focus more on gas investment and production.
The two leaders discussed declining share of OPEC in the global oil market, growing involvement of other countries in the cartel’s decisions, and cooperation between Tehran and Doha in the joint South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf, according to Shana.
OPEC allied with some of the world's other major oil producing countries led by Russia and agreed in November 2016 to cut their total production by 1.8 million barrels per day (mbpd) in order to raise oil prices.
The cartel's meeting ended inconclusively on Thursday. OPEC representatives will meet Friday with Russia and other non-OPEC producers to further discuss the cuts that each individual member is willing to make.