Egypt seeks alternatives after Saudi halts fuel deliveries

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Cairo - Egypt has invited tenders to meet its refined oil products needs for October after Saudi Aramco halted the expected delivery of 700 000 tonnes for this month, the petroleum ministry said on Tuesday.

The move by the Saudi oil giant was a surprise as Riyadh has been one of the main regional backers of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and had agreed to finance Egyptian imports from Aramco for five years in a $23bn deal reached in April.

"The Saudi Aramco company verbally informed the General Petroleum Corporation earlier this month that it would halt its supplies for October, without offering any reasons," ministry spokesman Hamdy Abdel Aziz told AFP.

Egypt has invited "tenders in international markets to supply the amount needed for October and we have opened credit lines with the central bank and will reach a deal soon."

Egypt angered its ally on Saturday by voting in favour of a Russian-drafted resolution on the conflict in Syria which Saudi Arabia had strongly opposed.

Riyadh had backed a French text, which was vetoed by Moscow, that would have demanded an end to air strikes on rebel-held areas of Syria's battleground second city Aleppo.

But Abdel Aziz insisted that Aramco's decision came before the Security Council vote and was unconnected.

"Aramco told us about the issue before the Security Council meeting. This is a commercial issue and not political. It is normal for some shipments to be late," he said.

Abdel Aziz did not elaborate on when he expected Aramco to resume shipments but insisted: "The deal with Saudi is ongoing."

Saudi Arabia has provided Egypt with billions of dollars in aid and credit since Sisi overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi when army chief in 2013 and King Salman visited Cairo in April.

The two governments have had some differences over the Syrian conflict and over Egypt's unwillingness to send ground troops to join the Saudi-led coalition fighting rebels in Yemen.

But Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United Nations, Abdullah al-Muallimi, expressed hurt at Saturday's UN vote by Egypt.

"It was painful for the Senegalese and Malaysian positions to be closer to the Arab consensus than that of the Arab representative," he told Al-Jazeera television.

"This obviously was painful. But obviously the question should be directed to Egypt's ambassador."

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