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Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak walk during a meeting at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia on June 16.MAXIM SHEMETOV/Reuters

Russia could continue cooperating within the OPEC+ oil production agreement beyond 2022, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said, after a surprise meeting with Saudi Arabia’s energy minister on Thursday.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman made a surprise appearance at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum while not being listed on an official schedule and as many other guests avoided the flagship annual event.

The high-profile meeting comes as Russia is pumping less oil than it current OPEC+ quota calls for after Western sanctions saw some buyers either refuse or delay taking Russian barrels.

Russia’s crude oil production rose to 9.273 million barrels per day (bpd) in May from 9.159 million bpd in April, an OPEC+ document showed on Thursday, and Novak promised to add more next month as Moscow finds strong demand from India and China.

Still, Russia was producing 1.2 million bpd less last month than its quota of 10.55 million bpd called for, prompting speculation that Moscow might be suspended from the pact.

The meeting between Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Novak lasted for more than an hour. Asked whether OPEC+ partners are complaining about Russian underproduction, Novak told reporters after the meeting: “We see the current situation (on the global oil market) as balanced despite some uncertainties.”

Russia could continue to cooperate with OPEC+ even after the current deal expires at the end of this year, Novak said.

“Everything will depend on the market situation - whether it will require any quotas or it will be a charter-based cooperation,” he said. “It will be clear by year-end.”

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman declined comments but described Russia-Saudi relations “as good as the weather in Riyadh.”

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