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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Former Saudi Oil Minister Ahmed Zaki Yamani Dies at 90

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LONDON — Ahmed Zaki Yamani, the former Saudi oil minister who made global headlines in the 1970s by quelling a Saudi boycott of the United States, has died, Saudi Arabian state news agency SPA reported on Friday. He was 90.

The agency said that Mr. Yamani, who died in the evening, was one of the world’s most experienced oil and gas executives and that he had remained active in the oil industry.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former Saudi ambassador to the United States, said on Twitter: “Our all times was with #Yamani. He is a classic mix of shrewdness and deep sense of justice.”

Under Mr. Yamani’s leadership, in 1977, the country’s national oil company, Saudi Aramco, stopped selling crude oil to the United States in response to oil price hikes by U.S. companies.

The move sent shock waves through the oil market, which was established in the 1930s on America’s shipping lanes in the Gulf. By moving Saudi crude offshore, Mr. Yamani deflected supply from a glutted world market and convinced American companies to cooperate with OPEC in an effort to support prices.

Mr. Yamani was instrumental in developing the direction of Saudi oil policy. He rejected the idea of playing the role of the “swing producer” whose decisions determine world oil prices.

Sayed al-Azhari, an economist and former Saudi oil executive, said that under Mr. Yamani’s leadership, Saudi Arabia broke with OPEC during the late 1970s. Saudi Arabia relied on its own policies and domestic production to pump enough oil to satisfy demand.

“He managed the flow of crude oil in a way that enabled Saudi Arabia to function,” he said.

As a founding member of OPEC, Mr. Yamani believed that the organization should curtail prices when prices were high and pump more oil when they fell. He also believed that OPEC should remain united and focus on coordinated price fixes rather than competing for market share with non-OPEC countries such as Russia and Iran.

He also opposed letting the United States use a strategic reserve of oil stored off its shores as part of emergency supplies.

Those positions cost him a spot on the governing body of OPEC in the 1970s.

Mr. Yamani was in charge of Saudi oil policy from 1965 to 1985. He was an ally of the Saudi king, Salman, and considered a close personal friend of the late King Abdullah, who died in January.

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