* OPEC, others to discuss global oil deal at end-November
* Russia’s Novak says ready to discuss deal extension
* Russia-Saudi Arabia ties have flourished (Releads, writes through)
By Katie Paul
RIYADH, Nov 2 (Reuters) - The global pact aimed at the reducing bloated oil inventories and supporting weak crude prices could be extended if necessary, but the decision is not imminent, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Thursday.
He was commenting on the deal after a meeting with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh.
“We’re ready to discuss the topic and if need be we’re ready to consider an extension,” Novak said through a translator.
“But we would need to analyse a lot of data in order to understand the picture at the time of taking this decision and so this is why we believe it could be taken at a later date,” he told reporters.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other leading oil producers including Russia agreed to cut their combined oil production by almost 1.8 million barrels per day and keep the lower level of output until the end of March 2018.
OPEC, Russia and other oil producers are due to meet at the end of November in Vienna to decide whether to extend the current supply cut pact.
The deal has already been beneficial to the oil market, which saw the prices recovery to more than $60 per barrel, unseen since mid-2015.
However, the market is yet to find a supply and demand balance, while stockpiles in developed countries are still above the 5-year average.
“If we see that the market is not balancing then we’ll do it. I can give you a more specific answer if you can find me any person now who can say what the market will look like in five months. If you find a person like this, I will shake his hand,” Novak said.
Ties between Russia and Saudi Arabia have flourished in the past year. Last month King Salman visited Moscow for the first time.
The rapprochement is seen as part of a strategy by Russian President Vladimir Putin to boost Moscow’s political and economic influence in the Middle East, which was weakened by the collapse of the Soviet Union.
On Thursday, Novak said that Russia is working closely with Saudi Arabia to facilitate bilateral investment in the energy sector and Russian companies are interested in the kingdom’s planned new NEOM business zone.
Novak, who was at an investment event in Riyadh held by the two oil producers, said Russian companies were looking at various Saudi sectors such as solar, healthcare, education, artificial intelligence and port infrastructure.
He said Moscow was working with the Saudi energy ministry to encourage Russian investment in the kingdom’s energy sector and vice versa, without giving details.
Last week the chief executive of The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) told reporters that it plans to participate in building NEOM, a new $500 billion mega-city, in ventures worth several billion dollars in total.
The RDIF and Saudi Arabia’s main sovereign wealth fund PIF have already invested $1 billion in nine joint projects, according to Russia’s energy ministry.
There are around 25 more projects worth $10 billion under consideration as part of the strategic partnership, the ministry wrote on Twitter, adding that Russian exports to the kingdom have almost doubled this year.
“Cooperation on the ‘peaceful atom’ could be key,” Novak was quoted as saying by the Russian Energy Ministry Twitter feed, referring to nuclear energy. Saudi Arabia plans to award a construction contract for its first two nuclear reactors in 2018.
Novak was part of a Russian delegation including executives from companies such as Gazprom, Sibur, Lukoil , Sinara, KAMAZ, TMK, United Heavy Machinery Plants, Russian Railways, and Nevsky Machine, an RDIF statement said. (Reporting by Katie Paul in Riyadh and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow, Writing by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and David Evans)